With modern businesses transforming into technology companies, the spotlight falls on software engineering culture. The wrong set-up can break a business as competitors sprint ahead.
"If technology is the core of your business, if technology is something with which you can win or lose the market, you need to have the mastery on that technology," said Amir Arooni, EVP & CIO, Discover Financial Services, speaking Thursday at the Forbes CIO Summit.
Building an engineering culture to advance innovation isn't a one-and-done effort, but rather a continued cycle of improvement. Knowing when to scrap technology projects, attracting top-flight tech talent and enabling development frameworks such as DevOps helps businesses connect their tech and business aspirations.
"Any of us that grew up with any kind of software engineering background, we like to think of what we do really as an elegant marriage of art and science," said Jen Hartsock, CIO at Baker Hughes, speaking on the same panel.
Over the past five years, Hartsock helped Baker Hughes bring much of its technology talent in-house, a push away from outsourcing and toward building an internal software engineering culture.
"If you're really going to be a master craftsman in software engineering, that requires an investment of time and talent, tightly coupled to that process area, or that customer outcome or solution that you're trying to deliver," said Hartsock.
Here are three strategies to shape engineering culture:
In addition to the "build it, run it, love it" mantra embraced by the engineering community, leaders need to understand when a piece of technology has run its course, according to Hartsock.
"When something is born, sometimes we just want to let it live forever," said Hartsock. "On life support, if necessary."
As part of its continuous improvement journey, engineering teams at Baker Hughes shifted toward product thinking and envisioning the full life-cycle of a technology product. This includes deciding when a product has reached the end of its useful life for the organization or its customers," said Hartsock.
The IT environment can be simplified through "radical decommissioning and radical modernization," said Arooni. An inability to embrace these concepts can hold companies back from achieving "speed, quality and craftsmanship" in its engineering practice.
2. Talent playbook
Employers across industries are struggling to attract tech talent, especially in highly competitive subsets of technology. Attracting that high-demand talent must begin with fostering innovation and a sense of autonomy within the company, according to Arooni.
"You're talking about building an environment and collectively creating an environment that keeps engineers happy and engaged in their work," said Arooni. "People do not want to get instructions, they want to have autonomy."
Talent attraction works to bring outside talent into the pipeline. According to Arooni, Discover build talent internally through a number of strategies, including:
Empowering engineers to contribute to open source projects, and
The Discover Technology Academy, a hub for upskilling built by engineers for engineers.
At Baker Hughes, the strategy on talent attraction shifted to adapt to what incoming talent required.
"We historically had hired people into leadership development programs with the assumption that everyone wanted to be a generalist," said Hartsock. "What we had to do is change so that we actually allowed both generalist career paths, and then also deep technical."
Atop the CIO agenda lie big ticket priorities, such as improving productivity, quality or efficiency.
"If you want to do that, DevOps is not something which is new, but it is the way forward, so I will encourage everyone to start as soon as possible," said Arooni.
Practices and tools can help leaders improve and develop the engineering culture. Discover implemented DevOps, DevSecOps and Site Reliability Engineering as part of its approach to engineering culture.
These methodologies employ the "automation, monitoring and continuous deployment that form the foundation of our collaborative cycle of software development and operations."