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This chapter is from the book

Why People

In our introduction, we made the statement that people are important when attempting to scale nearly anything; they are especially important when trying to scale technical platforms responsible for processing transactions under high user demand and hyper growth.

Here, we are going to go out on a limb and assert that people are the most important aspect of scale. First and foremost, without people, you couldn't possibly have developed a system that needs to scale at all (at least until such point as the HAL 9000 from 2001: A Space Odyssey becomes a reality). Without people, who designed and implemented your system? Who runs it? Following from that, people are the source of the successes and failures that lead to whatever level of scale you have achieved and will achieve. People architect the systems, write or choose the software, and they deploy the software payloads and configure the servers, databases, firewalls, routers, and other devices. People make the tradeoffs on what pieces of the technology stack are easily horizontally scalable and which pieces are not. People design (or fail to design) the processes to identify scale concerns early on, root cause scale related availability events, drive scale related problems to closure, and report on scale needs and initiatives and their business returns. Initiatives aren't started without people and mistakes aren't made without people. People, people, people . . .

All of the greatest successes in building scalable systems have at their heart a great set of people making many great decisions and every once in awhile a few poor choices. Making the decision not to look at people as the core and most critical component of scaling anything is a very large mistake and a step in a direction that will at the very least make it very difficult for you to accomplish your objectives.

As people are at the heart of all highly scalable organizations, processes, and systems, doesn't it make sense to attract and retain the best people you can possibly get? As we will discuss in Chapter 5, Management 101, it's not just about finding the people with the right and best skills for the amount you are willing to pay. It's about ensuring that you have the right person in the right job at the right time and with the right behaviors.

The VC firm backing AllScale has a saying amongst its partners that the "fish rots from the head." Although the firm's representative on AllScale's board of directors and the remainder of the board feel that the current CEO and founder did a great job of growing the company and identifying the HRM market opportunity, they also know that the competencies necessary to run a successful SaaS company aren't always the same as those necessary to run and grow a successful consulting company. After several quarters of impressive growth in the HRM market, the board becomes concerned over stalling growth, missed numbers, and a lack of consistent focus on the HRM product. The board brings in a seasoned SaaS veteran as the new CEO, Christine E. Oberman, and moves the previous founder and CEO to the position of chief strategy officer. Christine promises to bring in and retain the best people, structure the company for success along its current and future product offerings, and focus on management and leadership excellence to supercharge and maximize shareholder wealth.

The right person speaks to whether the person has the right knowledge, skills, and abilities. Putting this person in the right job at the right time is about ensuring that he or she can be successful in that position and create the most shareholder value possible while tending to his or her career and offering the things that we need to feel good about and comfortable in our jobs. The right behaviors speaks to ensuring that the person works and plays well with others while adhering to the culture and values of the company. Bad behaviors are as good a reason for removing a person from the team as not having the requisite skills, because bad behavior in any team member creates a vicious cycle of plummeting morale and productivity.

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