Tech Leadership

by Andrew Bilsdon, Delivery Lead – Altis Sydney

I frequently engage with clients as a Tech Lead. My habit is to always clarify what is expected from me so that I am set up for success.

Now the beauty to the role is that it is extremely flexible and broad, so not surprisingly so is the response to my question. What I consistently hear are phrases like:
    • End to end understanding of the solution
    • Management of the tech staff
    • Expertise in the toolset

Crossover

What I experience in this role, and the point of this blog, are that the Tech Lead responsibilities and skills are much broader than the three options above. They include:

      • Architecture
      • Estimation
      • Scheduling of the delivery and dependencies
      • Code and Release management
      • Detailed design
      • Translating requirements into a detailed design
      • Toolset expertise
      • Team leadership
      • Development of code
      • Definition of appropriate standards
      • Vision
I have highlighted those that clearly crossover with the responsibilities of the Architect(s), Business Analyst, Project Manager or Scrum Master. The crossover can be represented as follows:

Relationships

The next thing I want to share is the Tech Lead’s relationship with the key parties in a project:

Now clearly this is very simplistic, and in reality, everyone will communicate with each other on some level. The point I want to call out is that Tech Lead does not have a strong, continuous, communication path with the Business.

Consequences

The consequence of the Tech Lead role, as described above is:

      • Tensions can very easily arise within the project due to the ambiguity of the role, essentially, “What does the Tech Lead actually do? Why is he/she providing input into the project schedule, estimates, architecture, etc.”.
      • With the role, ambiguity and breadth of skills required it makes it very difficult to get a good fit between the project and the resource.
      • Due to the occasional interaction between the Business and the Tech Lead, the Business will assume that the Tech Lead is only about technical delivery of code. If the Project team has a different expectation then it will create internal tensions

Recommendations

My recommendations are:
      • If you are the Tech Lead, have the conversation with your client and project team to explain what you understand the role actually involves and describe the potential tensions.
      • Only have an Architect involved in the project until the build phase. After which they should only provide an advisory role on an as-needed basis.
      • If the Project Sponsor actually sees you as the “leader” of the project, realise that the Business may assume that you are not, given the role title. If this is the case drop the word Tech from your title, it will save a lot of heartache.
      • If you have a strong Tech Lead that can meet the responsibilities I have outlined above, ask yourself the question if you need a Project Manager or Architect? Why not have a Tech Lead and a Project Administrator?

 

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