The picture illustrating this post is a XVI century engraving by German Renaissance master Albrecht Dürer.
One of many interpretations of the work suggests that the angel in the middle of the picture feels melancholia because can’t achieve his wisdom despite of having all the knowledge and tools available at the time, exemplified in this case with the scale, compass, hourglass, nails, magic square and geometrical solids. His happiness or success doesn’t rely on what assets he has at hand, it has to be found somewhere inside himself.
I do believe that engineering leadership is faced with the same challenge.
I still remember, back in 1988, when my software development universe was reduced to a set of clear business requirements, an operating system, a programming language, a compiler and a hardware environment to deploy the solution on. I used to follow a waterfall oriented methodology for most of my professional projects, there wasn’t any other widely adopted one.
I want to believe that my deliverables used to be very close to expectations and, more important, the business owner used to be satisfied with the new deployed system.
30 years later, the scenario has become an amazingly complex one; much more rampant requirements, quite often defined during the development process or triggered by new technology capabilities, highly interconnected heterogeneous solutions sharing data and processes at real time 24×7, distributed On Premise and Cloud solutions, hundreds of architecture pattern designs to solve one problem, a list of programming languages/platforms continuously expanding with a spectacular grow of frameworks and complements about them, DevOps and Programming Aid Assets have appeared as a new discipline and market with uncountable number of providers and solutions.
In this new context, having all the knowledge, mastering current tools, methodologies, languages, frameworks and other assets doesn’t warrantee us to deliver the right solution. Indeed this new diversity hides or masks the wisdom. The strategy when selecting and aligning all those pieces becomes the big challenge that few professionals are facing and/or capable to face. We should not base our strategy on what assets we currently master, we should thoroughly understand the challenge in front of us and pick the appropriate ones balancing their added value to the solution, our team’s current knowledge and the feasibility/cost to train or acquire them.
Too often Engineers can’t see the wood for the trees. The job of the CTO or person in charge of the project has to be warrantee that work is aligned around a wisdom or purpose and not about existing already known technology assets.