Thursday, 12 July 2012

Division of skill-sets – good or bad?

As iMedia has matured, there has been a splintering of skill-sets into specialisms. We've touched on this before and have, overall, been positive about it. So we've seen the rise of SEO and then companies specialising in this; similarly with testing, usability, information architecture, back-end and front-end, let alone across sectors like retail, business-to-business, information dissemination, social media, mobile communication.

The approach that one person can span several roles has changed because each piece of the interactive jigsaw now demands more skills at a deeper level than they used to. But someone has to have the solid overview of how these interconnect because a change in one part has a ripple effect on the others. For example, recently we've been stuck in the middle of the clients (users), the front-end needs and the back-end realities of the system configuration. Bet this sounds familiar to you.

It is increasingly problematic since the intelligence used to be shared within one company, or even one person, but now the front-end and back-end can often be different companies. In this case, getting the intelligence about how to resolve the needs into a working solution, that doesn’t crash the system, takes a lot longer. Each company fights its corner using different language. Often this arises on the updates side of applications as people move on from companies and the nascent intelligence is lost.

The project manager generally fulfils the role of mediator during the course of the application development but who does afterwards? Something to think about.

If you want a definition of front-end and back-end and the differences, Ian Peters-Campbell's blog gives a nice workable breakdown. And if you aren't convinced yet that this can be a problem area worth thinking about, these links might help change your mind.

Skillset defines it as an area of concern in its appraisal of skills in the iMedia industry. The ‘hybrid’ and ‘cross-disciplinary’ skills and a balance of creative and logical thinking are the backbone for the industry, as they say, but they are well aware that: "An absence of cross-disciplinary awareness and understanding of role context is particularly significant." See: What are the main skills issues and concerns?.

A more fun way of describing the potential conflict is found at: What is the difference between web design and front-end development? from Pete Markiewicz. This relates to internal dissension rather than across specialist companies. "Splitting web design and front-end development in a team often leads to nasty conflicts between snobby designers and angry codebeasts, resulting in lost project time. It's best that each is able to understand the other's work."

So if web and front-end cause grief, what about the back-end? And what about the back end and any databases? I think we'll find this splitting further as time goes on.

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