« The Pythagoreon Formula (of Baseball) | Main | What If Bill Gates's Signature Was On Our Software? »

August 15, 2007

The Era of Operations

In the book Proudly Serving My Corporate Masters, I talk about how Microsoft has been through three periods in its existence: the era of the developer, the era of the PM, and the era of the tester. In each era the respective job discipline (dev, PM, or test) had the most "important" job and the most say in what we shipped.

It's really more like two and a half eras, because the era of the tester never quite caught on. We did start focusing on things like quality and reliability, but while test has come a long way, it is still working to reach the stature of dev and PM. You do hear of people moving from dev to test, which was unheard of ten years ago, but it is still unusual (to be clear: I blame dev, not test, for not granting test the respect it deserves). Another thing is that the responsibility for "quality" is now viewed as shared between dev and test (and some other jobs also).

Now, I think a new era is approaching as Microsoft moves to provide more services: the era of operations. That is, what will differentiate companies is operational execution, and operations will become the job that has the most say in the products we create. As it happens, Microsoft classifies dev, test, and PM as "disciplines" in the engineering "profession", while operations is a separate profession. So arguably I am talking about a shift from the era of the engineering profession (dev/test/PM) to the era of the operations profession.

I think this shift is also somewhat theoretical, because I don't think engineering is ready to give up any ownership. Unfortunately, each successive era beyond the dev one has been noted by dev treating the namesake of the new era with scorn. In the era of the PM dev would write code, then tell PM to spec it; in the era of the tester, dev would write code then tell test to test it. Now that test has been mostly pulled up, I get a feeling that some teams are throwing the released product over the wall to operations and telling them to deal with deploying it. Hopefully we can nip this sentiment in the bud; although it might prove my point, since the upturned nose of a developer points to the key player on the team as surely as the end of the Big Dipper points to the North Star, as an employee and shareholder I hope we can move to the era of operations without stumbling as much as we did the last two times.

Posted by AdamBa at August 15, 2007 09:06 PM

Trackback Pings

TrackBack URL for this entry:


I think we're also seeing the era of the UX designer - not just operations.

Posted by: Sriram Krishnan at August 16, 2007 03:22 PM