Engineering Director: Accountability for R&D Management

This entry is part 7 of 12 in the series Tech Company Casestudy

The project is funded, thanks to the dynamic product manager. It is about to be started.  Engineering director has to be accountable for the delivery of the solution. He is contemplating how to structure the responsibility for this project.

He is leading a large portfolio. There are five engineering managers under him. First group works on internet based services while the second works on video analytics. The third group has desktop video products having large install base. Forth and fifth groups have responsibilities of various tools.  Avg 30 people in each team. Each team is into multiple new product development initiatives. Also there are maintenance projects around existing products.

OVES project is a large one. Actually it is not just a project – it is a program of 3 projects. Cloud service. video editor and tools.These team have enough critical mass to start off. However, for the level of complexity, the funds allocated are too less. Hence to deliver, existing experts need to share the time with low cost resources being hands on. Also he needs to shoot for maximum reuse from existing products. The team needs to have right expertise to deliver under the conditions.

Considering all the factors, he assigns the responsibilities to the engineering managers of the respective groups. Thus, first, second and forth groups get the responsibility of the program.

Let us call them:

  • EM-Cloud : Engineering Manager – Cloud service and integrations
  • EM-Tools : Engineering Manager – Tools
  • EM-VideoEditor : Engineering Manager – Video Editor

First major step in staffing is thus done. More about them here

Need for a program manager: This complex program spans across multiple groups. And it relies on part time experts. Hence it needs one person to take the full time responsibility. The program manager needs to be skilled enough to navigate through delicate relationships to accomplish this. The engineering director holds discussion with PMO (Project Management Office) Practice Head.  A program manager is assigned.

Director of Engineering: Other Pains and Pleasures

Thus taken care is one job of the engineering director. He has many other fire fighting tasks to deal with. He has people issues in two of the groups with him. In another project, marketing director is cornering him for the failure of the R&D teams in the delivery. The directory was supposed to show year-on-year R&D cost reduction. he could not do it. He has to deal with that as well. He has to take care of many operational tasks. Quality team wants to pilot new process in his portfolio. Then he also has to face pay hike budget constraints and attrition possibilities.

It is not that he has only pains to deal with. As the boss of 100 plus people he enjoys great deal of power and opportunity to shape the organization and the people.

Any views on what is engineering director’s role? What should it be? In terms of leadership pipeline, what should be the past roles prior to being R&D director?

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