Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Technical leadership ecosystem

I am a big fan of “ecosystem view”. Wikipedia introduces ecosystem as:

The term ecosystem was coined in 1930 by Roy Clapham, to denote the physical and biological components of an environment considered in relation to each other as a unit. British ecologist Arthur Tansley later refined the term, describing it as the interactive system established between biocoenosis (a group of living creatures) and their biotope (the environment in which they live).

What I like about ecosystem is that it lays emphasis on “relationship” between its elements rather than the elements themselves. For example, see a picture of an ecosystem.

Here is my attempt to present “technical leadership ecosystem” view.

It presents technical leadership in an rnD organization in the context of its environment (In “rnD environment” r for research is smaller than D for development). Technical leadership consists of roles such as product/solution/system architect, principal engineer, member technical staff, distinguished engineer, fellow etc. I define technical leadership as those people who influence, own and drive technology decisions and their implementation.

There are 4 dimensions: partnerships for today’s business, partnerships for tomorrow’s business, innovation and systems-processes. I feel that sustainability of technical leadership ecosystem depends upon how these linkages work. Each dimension is briefly described below:

  • Partnership for today’s business: Technical leaders need to partner with delivery managers and with customers’ technical experts. Like any partnership, this partnership depends upon both the parties.

  • Partnership for tomorrow’s business: These are people who participate in marketing and sales process such as proposal writing, collateral creation, making presentations to prospects etc. This partnership is tricky because many times the language of sales & marketing folks is different from technology folks and both the parties need to make an effort to understand each other.

  • Innovation: This is the dimension where technical leaders contribute in pushing technology envelope. Apart from in-house experimentation, this involves partnering with academia and standardization bodies.

  • Systems & processes: Various systems & processes like knowledge management system (KM), decision support system (DSS), promotion process, incentivisation scheme make a difference to technical leaders. Similarly, it matters how technical leadership contribute in learning & development activity (L&D) and mentoring.

In the subsequent articles, we will look at challenges Indian IT organizations are facing in making the technical leadership ecosystem sustainable.

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