D'Arcy from Winnipeg
Solution Architecture, Business & Entrepreneurship, Microsoft, and Adoption

Each Team Needs A Star

Thursday, November 5, 2009 12:37 PM

I was thinking of getting a new football jersey…here are some options. What do you think?

image image image image

Now before you all start making funny comments about how none of these apply to the Falcons (jerks ;) ), how about we focus on the words themselves. Why don’t we see jerseys like these? Don’t we want to show off our teams abilities and talents?

Yes and no. When I go to a professional football game, I assume that the players know how to tackle, catch a ball, throw a block, run the ball, etc. I assume the coaches are going to be coaching similar fundamentals as well as improving their players to attain peak performance. Some do it better than others.

But nobody gets a jersey with “Best Tackling Team” on the back, they get it with a player name. There’s a level of recognition with a specific player on that team and that player’s specific abilities.  How many Tampa Bay Buccaneer jerseys do you see? Not many...mainly because there’s no key player. But Favre or Vick (before the dog fighting) was common place.

So what the heck does this have to do with software development?

I got into a conversation with some friends about what’s more important to focus on and communicate from a technology point of view within an organization (specifically a software development/professional services one). One argument was that, instead of focussing on specific technologies, companies should communicate their ability to collect requirements, produce accurate estimations, manage change and client expectations, deliver on schedule, etc.

Another argument (mine) was that those things aren’t so important in communicating because, referring back to my football team analogy, most customers *expect* that professional IT service providers know how to collect requirements, produce accurate estimations, manage change and client expectations, etc. These are the common things that, while important, aren’t key differentiators in client’s eyes. The star players, like on football teams, are the real differentiators.

By “star player”, I don’t mean individual coder or employee. In this context, I’m talking about specific experience with a technology. Let’s say you need a highly interactive ASP.NET website and you talk to 5 different web development shops. All will be able to deliver a web site for you using Microsoft technologies. 3 of them can show their past experience and prowess with ASP.NET and Microsoft AJAX as well as using the jQuery framework. Out of those three, one also has proven skills in Silverlight and augmenting applications with rich user interfaces.

So which one do you choose? Obviously there’s going to be differentiators with cost, requirements of the website compared to required technical knowledge, etc. But I would argue that the one company that boasts the most technical prowess has put themselves in the best position.

That scenario seems to suggest that having specific technology knowledge areas just gives you better odds. But there’s another scenario: branding. If your company is able to hang a technology off of its hat you will have a *distinct* advantage over other competitors. Being known as the “BizTalk Guys” or the “SharePoint Guys” in a given market provides huge benefits that competitors will have difficulty overcoming.

The discussion ended with one person suggesting both were important, and I agree: You need to ensure people have confidence in the basic skills expected of the market. But at the same time, you can’t just rest *on* those skills to win you business. You have to stand out, you have to have some stars (technologies) on your team (offering portfolio) if you really want to compete.

And now, I open this up to thoughts and comments.



# re: Each Team Needs A Star

Too true, too true! I'd spout my favourite Mark Crawford-Team Canada-Nagano-Overtime-Shootout-Bertuzzi-Over-Gretzky analogy right now, but you've all heard it 354 times. 11/6/2009 10:01 AM | Eric Legault

# re: Each Team Needs A Star

Reading just the title and the first couple of paragraphs, I thought this was one of those "rockstar" programmer posts. I think that whole idea is ridiculous. Having read the entire blog post now, I completely agree with you. I just wish I could get everyone here to understand that! 11/6/2009 11:24 AM | J.R. Garcia

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