Turn this ship around

In the digital era, the pressure on internal Technology departments to deliver has never been greater. Every other company is cited as being faster. Every start-up is highlighted as being more nimble. Delays in technology deliveries jeopardise product sales and marketing campaigns fail. This tends to indicate that your in a company that still regards the IT department as the ‘get the email working’ department. This traditional approach to IT is great for mature companies, where IT is generally regarded as a support service and a cost centre.

However, the companies that are growing the fastest are those that recognise that Technology teams can operate as nimble creators of digital value. In some wilder circles this is sometimes referred to as the ‘maker movement’. Within the maker movement software engineers are idolised as they create small companies, with niche pieces of software that rapidly gain customers (some might actually pay). Ultimately aiming to create another unicorn.

A unicorn in this context is a company obtaining a $1Bn valuation.

Some examples that may inflame your current state of consternation are Uber raising even more cash, $10Bn AirBnB and the bubble bursting valuation of Slack’s $1Bn valuation after just 8 months.

The side effect is that good software engineers are in greater demand, which increases their perceived value. Rather a big shift from the traditional treatment of software engineers as cheap commodities.

In places like Boston (MA) start-ups are offering $10K rewards to employees who bring in more software engineers. The fact that the new software engineer also gets a healthy share allocation also appears to be trending upwards. Have a look at the recently listed Hubspot for an idea on how hard you have to work to attract top software engineering talent.

If you are sitting there and thinking software engineers just type bits of code, then you’re missing another important point.

The current crop of software graduates are very different from their predecessors. It’s also a positive change. It’s fair to say that they learn quicker, adapt faster and they expect a rate of change that makes older generations feel uncomfortable. This leads to some issues within traditional operating structures. In the old days, companies would reach out to expensive management consultants for a set of equally expensive re-organisation charts and changes. Now, it’s not about moving the current pieces around, it’s about embracing the fact that a new generation of ‘makers’ are here and you need to adapt your working practices to get the most out of them.

The days of having department X that only does Y are fading away. For software products and services you need self contained teams that are allowed to rapidly design, build, market, improve, sell, … It’s the only way to obtain the maximum output from the latest generation of engineers.