Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Products and organizational culture

Is software development, software development? That is, is there a core competency in development that is unrelated to what is being developed?

Dare wrote:

One reaction which is obvious in hindsight is the assumption in this post that Microsoft shouldn't abide the fact that Apple is dominating a market it isn't directly engaged in. This is such a natural way of thinking for Microsoft people ("we should be number 1 in every software/hardware/technology related market") that it is often surprising for non-Microserfs when they first encounter the mentality.

This was in response to an open letter by Robert Scoble about getting Microsoft into the 'Pod business.

Interesting to me is whether it is reasonable to expect one organisation to excel at all kinds of software. I think different kinds of software demand a different mindset during
development. Differing priorities more than opposite goals.

As one example, think about games vs operating systems.

Games developers focus on new, flashy, aggressive push-the-envelope use of hardware. In some cases they probably anticipate the next generation of hardware, or even the next generation of overclockers. Stability is less important than texture and grit and larger-than-life experience. And if you push a little too hard and it crashes from time to time, well, not critical. So long as you meet the the Christmas buying season.

Operating system developers have almost the opposite goals. Stability, on hardware old and new, is (or should be) job #1.

I could come up with more examples. You can too.

But if there are different goals, is there one organisational culture that excels at both? That encourages boundless envelope pushing on the one hand and utter stodginess on the other?

By analogy, can corporate accounting and outside sales report to the same organisation? Is it reasonable to expect that they should, and if they do, how well will it work?

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