The Great Specialization Fallacy

We should always have in mind this question: “Are we working on the best solution to meet our needs or goals?” Many times that is not the case. Most people are blissfully unaware of this as they imagine that their colleagues wouldn’t suggest anything but the most adequate solution. That assumption, however, is incorrect more often than not.

Over the past couple of decades, we have seen a curious phenomenon arise: extreme specialization.

Today, tech professionals are dividing themselves up into classes such as .Net developers, Java developers, front-end developers, etc. People working with IT infrastructure are also split into the categories of Microsoft or Linux professionals.

This behavior is incentivized by tech companies which employ every means available to convince professionals that their great products should always be used in conjunction with some of their other products. These companies create what are called Stacks, sets of applications that combine their various products with one another and/or with open source components.

But what’s the matter with that?

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You need true believers

If you are starting a company, or simply running one that is already established, you need people who believe in what the company does. Offering good financial compensation and quirky perks might attract good people, but they will only be able to do their best work if they believe in what the company is doing.

Too frequently, in too many companies, I’ve seen people whose only objective at work was to get to the end of the month and receive their next paycheck or to get to the end of the year and receive some sort of bonus. When the financial compensation (such as bonuses) is big enough, you might attract and retain a certain type of person whose main goal in life is to obtain as much money as possible. Those people are not necessarily bad, and at least they will be trying to get as much business as possible, but they might not really care whether your company’s customers are totally satisfied or not as long as their goals have been met and their bonuses secured.

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The Temptation of Vaporware

Vaporware is a term coined to describe software and hardware products which were talked about by the companies working on them, long before being ready for the market. Many such products never end up getting to the market, at all.

In fact, looking the term up on Wikipedia will lead you to a reasonably lengthy article which starts as follows:

“Vaporware is a term in the computer industry that describes a product, typically computer hardware or software, that is announced to the general public but is never actually released nor officially cancelled.”

While the practice of creating vapourware products has been used successfully or not by several companies to gain market penetration or hinder a competitor’s chance of getting such penetration, such practice can lead you into a pernicious trap. Once you’ve started talking about products which you haven’t yet finished, or sometimes even began to develop, you might find yourself hard pressed to deliver on the vaporware vision you created.

I’ve had the opportunity to see more than one company make this mistake, sometimes even multiple times.

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