Monday, 26 March 2007

Bill Gates Evangelizes Small Teams

In 1989, Bill Gates gave a talk to Computer Science Club of the University of Waterloo. It's recently been made downloadble. An at-times-fascinating listen, he makes this interesting -- yet ironic -- point.

Small teams are good. Organizing software development in small teams keeps your business focussed, efficient, and nimble. In my experience, Bill is right on. All the best and most productive dev teams I've worked on (and with) were between two and four people.

What a shame Microsoft today doesn't practice what Bill preached 18 years ago.

Update: Christophe de Dinechin makes a similar point. HP Integrity VM? Isn't that what used to be called HP Virtual Vault? Wow, small world. Anyone remember OpenMail Anywhere?

4 comments:

tzink said...

> What a shame Microsoft today
> doesn't practice what Bill
> preached 18 years ago.

I'm not entirely sure this is an accurate comment. I work for Microsoft and I used to have the perception that the company has large dev teams for each product. Apparently this is not the case.

In the spam team, we used to complain that our team of 8 was not big enough. It was then pointed out that this 8-person team is one of the biggest teams within Microsoft. Another one of the architects has also said that Microsoft is essentially a collection of startups.

While the organizational hierarchy is definitely heavier at the top, is it really different at any other company that has gone from a small one to a big one? The development teams themselves, however, seem to be much smaller.

Richi Jennings said...

From a purely microscopic viewpoint, yes, Microsoft product teams are usually constructed from small sub-teams. The problem is that these are rolled into a huge, multi-level hierarchy, which often appear to induce the same sort of paralysis that large teams do.

Cases in point: Longhorn (at least before the reset, perhaps after); Exchange (2000 and Mercury at least).

Compare Exchange with (say) HP OpenMail, which managed to sustain a train of quarterly releases when that was the right thing to do in its product lifecycle.

Unknown said...

Richi Jennings wrote: HP Integrity VM? Isn't that what used to be called HP Virtual Vault? Wow, small world.

Actually, Integrity VM is a server virtualization technology, similar to VMware ESX, except it's for HP Integrity and other Itanium servers. It has nothing to do with Virtual Vault.

Richi Jennings said...

D'oh! I stand corrected. Merci.

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