It’s time for software engineering to grow

Co-founder Faros Artificial Intelligence — A connected engineering operating platform.

The recent market correction is a long time coming. For more than a decade, low interest rates and easy access to capital have fueled Silicon Valley’s unprincipled growth. “Cash flow positive” has become a distant memory of a bygone era.but as Edward Abbey Well said, “Growing for the sake of growth is the ideology of cancer cells”. He’s referring to the erosion of wilderness by uncontrolled urban sprawl in his beloved Arizona, but the analogy applies to corporations as well.

Software engineering organizations in particular have experienced rapid growth during this period, disproportionately to other functions. Headcount has been the primary lever for engineering leaders to dramatically increase output. Believe that more engineers will deliver more software faster. Recruiting is the answer to everything. Need more features? Hire more engineers. Engineer complaining? Hire more infrastructure staff. Are things going slow? Hire more engineering managers, product managers, program managers and recruiters to fill these positions. It’s time to grow up!

Adding more headcount to an organization is an expensive Band-Aid solution that greatly increases the complexity of the system and often slows it down. mythical man month Talk about this phenomenon. More engineers means more teams, more dependencies, more interviews and onboarding, more processes, more analytics paralysis, more technical debt, more feature creep, most frustrating Instead, focus less on the things that really matter. Broome Institute of Technology CEO Austen Allred called it “nonsense death spiral. “

On the other hand, headcount is also a major lever for engineering leaders when it comes to cutting costs, and we are now witnessing the consequences.

So why are engineering leaders limited to such blunt tools? The answer is a lack of visibility into engineering operations. Ask sales or marketing executives about their metrics – funnel conversion rate, funnel efficiency, sales cycle, forecast revenue. The answer is ready. But if you were to ask your engineering executive for a breakdown of monthly spending, forecasts for the next month, or the impact of unresolved incidents (in dollars), the answer would take weeks of effort, collecting data from different sources, mining logs, writing ads Temporary scripts, etc. Ironically, for an analytically minded organization, decision-making relies on incomplete data, and intuition is a common surrogate.

This is not the fault of engineering leaders. They were never held accountable. Other features are not enough to challenge them. They can do an entire hour of content in a board meeting without asking any questions. But just because they weren’t held accountable doesn’t mean they shouldn’t have done their jobs better.

So why is there so little visibility into software engineering operations? There are two main reasons.First, it’s simple hard. Engineering data sources are very fragmented and siloed. Organizations use dozens of systems to manage their engineering processes—from source control to task and event management to continuous integration/delivery, cloud operations, budgeting, human resources, and more. These systems do not communicate with each other or with any central system, but the answers require data from these sources.

The second reason is fear. Fear of alienating a volatile and scarce resource – software engineers. Software engineering is a creative craft. Some operational metrics can be “big brother” that stifles the creativity that leads to innovation.

But the result of tiptoeing is that today’s engineering organization is blind. There is only one way for engineering leaders to grow: to hire people. They also have only one way to cut costs: lay off employees. They have bloated teams — many of whom are overwhelmed by dependencies or technical debt — and don’t have enough visibility to provide timely support. Constant reorganization is a classic symptom of this dysfunction. It’s time to grow up.

To preserve the peace, engineering leaders forget that while organizations are made up of people, they should function like well-oiled machines. Especially now. Burying your head in the sand like an ostrich is a temporary fix to avoid “annoying” engineers with “metrics”, but it doesn’t address what the business actually needs, what the team’s pain points are, and how best to help them. Constant restructuring and layoffs don’t make engineers happy.

So what should we do? The good news is that while it can be difficult to understand engineering operations due to the fragmentation and diversity of data sources, software teams no longer need to build the necessary tools themselves. There are platforms and tools that provide this much-needed visibility out of the box.At the same time, benchmarks and frameworks such as Dora and space Emerging and gaining traction, enabling teams to identify how they work and room for improvement.

So now, imagine a world where all of an engineering organization’s operational data is at your fingertips. It is actually a measure of the speed and quality of software delivery. Bottlenecks in the process can be identified and continuously improved. Leaders will know how much time and resources are being spent on major initiatives and whether those initiatives are aligned with overall business priorities. Teams can be supported by the resources they need when they need it. More generally, growth can be methodical, driven by demand and informed by data (eg, which areas really need investment? Which areas will really make a difference?). Curriculum revisions can be timely and incremental, avoiding big-bang restructuring and layoffs. Focusing on speed and quality will bring practical and technical capabilities that allow organizations to do more with less.

The ongoing technological revolution is changing our world at an unprecedented rate. It gave us the internet, smartphones, and artificial intelligence, and in the near future, it will give us self-driving cars, private space exploration, and more. The tech industry employs the brightest minds of our generation, but because of our immature engineering practices, we are far from realizing their full potential. Engineering leaders are improvising and relying too much on intuition. It’s time to grow up.

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