The other week, I was having lunch with our CTO at PageUp Tal Rotbart, and we were discussing various issues in the industry, where he posed a question to me that got me thinking – “Isn’t pragmatism just business acumen?”
I’ve been pondering the question for some time now… Let me first start with defining the two.
Pragmatic: dealing with things sensibly and realistically in a way that is based on practical rather than theoretical considerations.
Business acumen: is keenness and quickness in understanding and dealing with a business situation in a manner that is likely to lead to a good outcome.
Given those terms, both seem to speak to similar traits in terms of software development, but the problem is, both can be very relative. Also, business acumen seems to be higher level concept, which can encapsulate pragmatism.
Pragmatism without business acumen can be just as deadly to a company as not having pragmatic approaches to start with.
Which drove me to start thinking about seniority levels within a development team.
Junior developers within a team (usually) do not have a lot of interactions with external stakeholders, and the wider business. Their focus needs to be on the code, and the design of the component they are working on.
Senior / Leadership roles usually do have to manage stakeholders, and need to communicate to the wider business. They focus on more than just code and design, but architecture of the components.
So often, I see Technical Leads not thinking about business value, or even the return on the investment. There is a real need in the market for these roles to focus on the problem, and more so, the business value and impact that solutions can provide.
If you find it hard to communicate the business value of an investment to your non-technical stakeholders, you should be questioning the investment itself.
Which leads me to the fact, that these senior technical roles in a team, needs to understand the business, and continually speak to business values, not technical values.
Developers within a team need to ensure they remain pragmatic in their code.
Senior developers / Leads need to be pragmatic, but also ensure they have the business acumen. Without the business acumen, it can lead to some crippling problems for the business.
As a final note, what we lack in the software industry, is training, courses, or talks on the Business Acumen that technical teams must have.