Competing in a Competitive World
James is a good friend of mine who worked his way through school, earning a degree in Chemistry and went looking for his next step.
At the time James was heavily recruited by pharmaceutical companies for a role in . . . sales. James is a lot of things, really smart, hard working and a great person.
Something must be up if a big company was trying to fit a square peg into a round hole.
Analytics at Intel
Thomas Davenport, he of keynoting eMetrics San Francisco and the forthcoming New York City, has the following quote about Intel:
And, where analysts were once exclusively number-crunchers, they’re now more often expected to understand business operations and strategy, too. They’re expected to help “frame the decision” within the context of the organization’s strategy.
So it is proven that individuals can ramp up with business sense; those individuals whose training is more tactically oriented can grasp company strategy.
Number crunchers, and code crunchers, can indeed be brought along to understand how their tactical components plug into the organizational structure at large.
Certainly there are individuals coming from the business point of view who bring a valuable voice to their organizations.
There are other individuals who frame their roles in terms of what they don’t do instead of what value they bring to their companies.
- Quantitative Analysis
Facilitating communication between business units that already eat their lunches together at the same side of the company cafeteria or some such function.
The need for the built in functionality of someone to ‘translate’ code/quant into business terms is empirically disproven by the Intel experience, and crudely mapped out in the following org chart:
The black lines of communication are the existing model, the red lines are what is coming down the pipe.
Executives in this model function to translate tactical function status into the strategic level, so cross functional collaboration can be achieved. The executives are not necessarily inclined to be programmers/quants themselves, they just watch over them.
Once the quants and the programmers can communicate to each other at the strategic level, there isn’t much need for the execu-speak translation loop.
James Finds a Job
My friend James never took the sales job, and at some point I asked him why he, of all people, was being recruited to do sales. His answer:
It is cheaper to try and teach a guy like me to do sales than to teach a salesperson chemistry.
Will companies ever calculate that it is cheaper to hire a programmer/quant and work with them to frame their conversations in terms of organizational goals?
We shall see.
If your only skill set is potentially obsolete you’d probably defend it with vigor. And that, just maybe, is part of the answer to Jason’s question.
Note: A pseudonym is used for my friend to keep it all cool, ok?