Posted by: rolfsky | August 6, 2007

salaried engineers are strangling the internet

Imagine that you are building your dream home. You meet with an architect, layout your requirements, and after a series of meetings, agree on something you like. Now you hire a contractor who hires sub-contractors to build your dream home, and they work steadily away.

A few months later, your home is done and you’re ready to move in. The next morning you wake up with 150 contractors at your door, asking what you want done next. Not wanting to put them out onto the street, you show them 10 things they could fix with your new house, and they fly into action.

A month later, they’re done and you think they’ve done a pretty good job. The next morning, they show up again, asking you for more work. A few iterations later, your house ends up looking like the Winchester Mystery House , with 160 bizarre rooms and stairways that lead nowhere. When does it stop?

Any large software development company will have the same problem, faced with a large standing bill for salaried engineers, project managers, and product managers. eBay thinks it is a software company while it is really an internet auction company. When something becomes commoditized, owning its implementation is no longer an asset. There’s a reason why janitorial staff has migrated from private, individually managed teams to large, outsourced firms. Having a “standing army” of engineers is a liability when you have to keep thinking up things for them to do.

Unless your business is engineering, salaried engineers force you to keep coming up with things to “fix”, whether or not it is in the best interests of your company.


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