This is the blog of Ant Miller, senior research manager and dilettante geek at large at the BBC.
I wail moan and cuss about the challenges and fun to be found here.
These are my personal opinions, and not those of my employer. Or anyone else here for that matter.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Rumours III- The split and clumps

Right, so we're moving. Fine. Really, it needs to happen, and in spite of the risks, we'll do it, do it well and crack on.

But actually there's a little more to it. You see the move will be partly to W12, and partly to Salford. How that location will work out I've no idea- high hopes, but no real clue. The area is one of those bleak post-industrial, chrome and glass zones that I've no great love for (I rather prefer real places) but still and all, could well be a great gaff. The idea is to build up a media neighborhood, which might work. Hasn't quite happened in W12 (that was a plan apprently) but you never know. 'Who is moving there?' is an interesting question- it's going to be 'internetty' stuff.

The split of R&D is indeed broadly to be into linear 'traditional' broadcasting technology, versus interactive, IP driven, non-linear webby stuff. From some angles, even I must admit that this looks odd, but from others, OK. On the odd side- you'd think perhaps we'd worked out the 'traditional' stuff, wouldn't you?

To be fair though, there's a strong realisation that it's an arbitrary split, and that we expect a LOT of cross over between the two sites. This is clear to all of us who've taken a look at the proposals, and plans. We ran an excercise to try and think of all the research projects we might do in the next five years and to sort them into the two categories above, plus a 'neither' bucket. The 'neither' bucket was full, the others empty. So, we'll see. It's a thankless task predicting the future of R&D, but fun. Some people will be up north, and some down south, and they'll have much the same set of skills, and do related if different work, and build over time their own distinct identities, but right now all we can sensibly do is try and make sure we can give them each the facilities they need to do their current work.

What that work is and how that's organsied comes from the clumps- the project portfolios. These were themselves somewhat experimental, and have really only existed for a year or so, and rationalising them seems a sensible move. One problem in such an excerise is that some research is big, and urgent, and has big teams, and some is little, and niche, and quirky. Slotting it all into a small number of equal sized portfolios was difficult and not altogether succesful last time. Some were characterised by their relationships with other institutions, some by their target applications, and some by their core technologies. In such an approach inconsistencies and contradictions were inevitable, and it was a difficult task to lead some of the more nebulous groups of projects.

Now we're making fewer bigger groups, and we are, it appears, acknowledging that some of these are large and perhaps not possesed of a single focussed objective. It seems fair enough really- not all of the the management layers of R&D can be totally subject focussed. Some management is just that, management, and there's no reason why that shouldn't work.

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