What Is More Important: Resources or Talent?

Mikegualtieri Picture this. You, the application developer, are in a big conference room. On your left is your boss. On your right are enterprise architects. Across from you are the business analysts and project managers. In the hallway is the businessperson on his "crackberry".  Why is everyone gathered here?  To discuss the next important application development initiative that the business needs to drive revenue, stay competitive, and be more efficient.

The meeting starts.

Project Manager: How many resources do we need?
Application Development Manager (turns to you and asks): How many developers do think we need?
You: 8.
Enterprise Architect: That sounds about right.
Project Manager: Ok. Great.  Now, how many business analysts do we need?

You Have Become a Victim Of Resourcification

And, so has everyone else: the project managers, business analysts, and architects. Resourcification is when all professionals are valued equally regardless of their talent or lack thereof.  We have become commoditized. We let it happen.

The Patriots Win With Talent, Not Resources

Patriots07_2 Can you ever imagine Bill Belichick, coach of the New England Patriots, talking about player "resources" like they were interchangable?  "I need two tightend resources.".  "I need a quarterback resource." No. Talent and teamwork makes winning teams. It is amazing to see how many managers are die-hard fans of high-performance sports teams but don't see the parallels in their own work.  I have been coaching my daughters' soccer team for 8 years now and it is real clear how talent and teamwork make a big difference in getting results.

Application Development Projects Need Talent, Not Resources

Smart application development professionals recognize talent. And, even though they are forced to answer the resource question, they do so keeping in mind who will be on the team. But many application development managers and project managers don't know how to even recognize talent.  This is partially due to the talent management initiatives that try to identify talent in terms of a narrow list of skills.  For example, a skill might be the ability to program in Java.  But, what does that mean?  Understanding the syntax?  Being able to describe the "static" keyword?  Or, reading Donald Knuth's 3 volume "The Art of Computer Programming" and programming the examples in Java?

Some 20+ years ago when I was a summer intern at Wang Laboratories, what was important was the ability to think, break down a problem and find creative solutions to hard problems.  When you are limited to 64K memory and have to program in Z80 assembler or PL/M these are critical abilities. We need to redefine what it means to have talent as application developers today and in the future.

What To Do At The Next Project Meeting

  • If you are a project manager, ask "How much talent do we need for this project?"
  • If you are an application developer and get asked about resources, stand up and then say "It depends upon what talent is available?"

Your Success In The Future Depends Upon You Not Being Commoditized

To maximize your value in the future:

  • Don't let yourself become resourcified.  Make sure everyone recognizes the talents you bring to a project.  You are not a resource.
  • Understand your value in the future of application development.  Some aspects of application development today will be commoditized tomorrow because of new tools and technologies that make the assembly of applications easier.  Your value lies in your ability to help create these tools and have a deep understanding of one or more business domains.

Your thoughts?

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Comments

re: What Is More Important: Resources or Talent?

First, I am an application developer.Nice post and some thoughts I wish others working in the industry would share but I don't think things are headed in that direction at the moment. IMHO honestly judging the talent of an individual or group of people is difficult. It takes time and in most cases, and with most organizations I'm familiar with, an honest assessment of talent is not done. Since that is the case a more resource oriented approach is being taken. Non-technically oriented people are using a factory model to approach IT projects. As I think you will agree that does not fit the need that most projects require. The only way they are finding talent is by dumb luck.I believe that being a completely introverted person that sits at a computer all day is no longer possible if your want to be successful. The days of being a prima donna programmer are over and are never coming back. Folks in my position need to get out in front of people more and sell ourselves.I'm doing what I can as an application developer to develop my "soft-skills" and shorten the time it takes those looking for talent to find me. I try and communicate better and work a little harder to make who I’m working for happy. It is not an answer to everything but a big part of what I have seen wrong with people in my position over the years.

re: What Is More Important: Resources or Talent?

This is a tough one. As an application developer, I feel that it's more an issue of answering a question rather than attempting to classify an individual. Think of it this way: you have a problem with your car. You take it to the garage to get it repaired. What's (probably) the first question you ask after being told they will work on it?"How long will it take?"I don't think you ever think of asking "Do you have the talent to fix this?". I think in today's business applications world, it's inevitable that recognition of talent is rudely shoved to one side -perhaps because it's assumed it should be there. So, to the Project Manager, Application Development Manager and Enterprise Architect in the example: I wonder if they are setting up the resource vs. talent issue due to the process rather than any intention to dismiss talent?Further, I have to wonder about how much value the project manager should be contributing here. Aren't some of the key qualities of a good project manager to identify the talent required, or provide estimations given the (hate to use this word now) "resources" available?I'll submit an answer to the question "What Is More Important: Resources or Talent?" is neither. To cheat a little here and provide multiple answers, I think the most important thing(s) are:i. to have the talent to identify the appropriate required resourcesii. realize answers given the knowledge of your team and level of talent within those available resources for the given project, and finally,iii. to manage the talent within the resources accordingly for the project.