[Wikimedia-l] [Wikitech-l] Fwd: [Tech/Product] Engineering/Product org structure

Federico Leva (Nemo) nemowiki at gmail.com
Thu Nov 8 09:28:54 UTC 2012

Sue Gardner, 08/11/2012 07:03:
 > I kind of have the sense that people are considering this a done 
deal. [...]
 > So to be super-clear: None of this is a done deal at this moment. Lots
 > of conversations are happening in various places, and it's all good.
 > That's why Erik made the pre-announcement --- to create a window for
 > discussion & iteration and further thinking :-)

Thank you for clarifying this. Another thing I found confusing in 
Terry's email is that he called it a "decision" (another terminology 
inconsistency problem? ;-) ).

Howie Fung, 08/11/2012 05:53:
> [...]
> That's how our project teams are structured.  When it comes to the proposed
> organizational structure, "Product" consists of Product Managers,
> Designers, and Analysts (1, 2 and 4) and "Engineering" consists engineers
> across the different areas Terry describes.  One way to view it is that
> "Product" involves everything outside of writing code for a feature and
> developers in "Engineering" write the code.  It's oversimplification (e.g.,
> analysts write code for analytics work, designers may prototype), but I
> think it's directionally useful.
> The individuals in Product and Engineering are then matrixed into project
> teams like the one described above for Page Curation so project team
> structure != organizational structure.

Thank you for this short explanation and its long (useful) premise.
It would seem that the tentative answer to my question, pending more 
insight from Erik when he has time, is "more scattered rather than less".

A thing your answer doesn't cover is that not only «project team 
structure != organizational structure» (with Erik's words, «functional 
groupings» != «team groupings»), but also (it seems) "project team 
structure != team structure", i.e. not all teams are the same.
By browsing the wonderful 
https://www.mediawiki.org/wiki/Category:WMF_Projects , one can see that 
each project has different ad-hoc teams (specified in the infobox), but 
some teams are more consistent/frequent than others, with the tightest 
groupings being the permanent teams mentioned also on the staff page, 
who mostly move together from one project to another. On the opposite 
side of the spectrum we have "electrons" who are not in any team (and 
don't have any "day-to-day management"?) but move across many projects 
("serving" many teams).
It would seem to me that you can't treat everything in the same way?

Steven Walling, 07/11/2012 23:46:
 > On Wed, Nov 7, 2012 at 2:16 PM, Platonides <Platonides at gmail.com> wrote:
 >>> Thanks for your explanation but personally I'm more confused than 
 >>> about the difference between Engineering and Product, also because the
 >>> terminology didn't appear internally consistent. :-)
 >> I feel like you, Nemo. I am glad by Terry explanation, but as I went on
 >> reading it, the less I felt I understood it. It would benefit from a
 >> more layman explanation. Maybe it's just complex to everybody.
 > Simplest possible explanation of what Erik is proposing: we need to 
split a
 > large department in to two, and add more managers. It's too big ad too
 > critical for one person to manage.

This is very clear and it's not hard to see that it's needed, but it 
doesn't actually explain the need for a split.
If, for instance, one "only" needs to make more equal «functional 
groupings» so that "each C-level has to sign an equal amount of holiday 
permissions"[1], instead of inventing boundaries between "Engineering" 
and "Product" or other names for almost-fake separations, one could as 
well just keep the two together, call it an "area" or "super-department" 
with its VP[2] and then Chief 1 and Chief 2 under it... or whatever.
But the further explanations will help us understand what are the aims 
and how it's expected to achieve them.


[1] Simplifying at most; fake example with probably wrong terminology even.
[2] Speaking of terminology bikeshedding, I never understood that "VP of 
Engineering and Product Development" were actually /two/ VP roles. 
Previous discussion: 

More information about the Wikimedia-l mailing list