The most important thing you'll develop this year? Your people.
07 March 2022 • 6 min read
What's the most important tech development you’ll make this year? It’s your people.
The need to shift from legacy, monolithic systems is clearer than ever. But in truth, the tech has only ever been half the story. In this post we speak to three AND Digital experts about the importance of the other part of the tech transformation equation: the people.
People and tech
Consultant Lee Pentecost explores the continuing shift from monolithic platforms to the cloud and composable enterprise, and identifies the most important things organisations should give their people when making that shift.
“The need to move from legacy, monolithic, on-premises systems is becoming increasingly necessary; companies that fail to do so will be left behind. This is because they will have to deal with out of date services which are hard to evolve and innovate upon, difficult to support, and not available on-demand. They will struggle to effectively manage scale and will also open themselves up to potential serious security vulnerabilities.
“Companies might put off migration because it appears challenging and expensive. However, it doesn’t have to be difficult. By adopting a progressive approach, they can chip away at their monoliths and gradually replace them with new services that are wired together into the building blocks of a composable enterprise.
“This new trend of ‘composability’, allows a company to choose the best services for them. By buying ‘off the shelf’ for commodity services they can focus on innovation at the edge. It allows the enterprise to fully align their business with technology capabilities, reorganising their people and teams to follow a Product based approach. For example, a ‘Search’ Product team may be organised around a ‘Search’ platform.
“It’s important to remember that while this helps future-proof companies and enables innovation, it can prove disruptive for employees, especially as services will be moved across in a progressive approach. For a period of time Product teams may sit alongside teams supporting legacy technology.
“This means the planning and execution of business transformation is as important as technology transformation; it will minimise disruption while maximising value to the business. This is why enterprises should educate their people in the Product way of thinking. This shift in mindset will be crucial in supporting large-scale technology transformation."
People and delivery
Consultant Chris Alderson considers the vital role played by DevOps and Agile in upgrading digital capability and engaging teams. And if you’re looking to develop Agile processes, he’s ready with a clear, simple first step.
“If you’re looking to grow your digital and IT teams, you need to think about Agile and DevOps delivery practices. This is because talent in the market now expects these ways of working: while it’s tempting to talk about them as revolutionary paradigms, we need to face up to the fact that none of this is really new: the Agile Manifesto is almost 21. We’re even seeing universities teach Agile software development modules rather than traditional waterfall frameworks. Students and experienced technology professionals alike, are today likely to see Agile = good; waterfall = bad.
While there are good reasons for such a perspective, it’s still important, however, to avoid the fallacy that just because your team adopted Scrum and GitLab CI in 2019, you’re immediately set up for success in 2022…
“In other words it’s not enough to simply say you’re now Agile or that you’re doing DevOps. These approaches demand continual investment. Having spoken to many digital teams they often stop at a certain point in the development of their DevOps capabilities.
“So, what do you do if you’re in a team that has already implemented some DevOps tools and processes? As an example: maybe you’ve set up continuous deployment through your development and staging environments. In this instance, there are a few questions that still need to be answered.
"These are: 1) Can you do even more as a team to make delivery better? (Could you, for example, increase confidence in releases by automating end-to-end tests or including automated security scans in the pipeline to remediate security defects early?) And 2) Are you sharing your DevOps success across all your teams? Engineering leaders should not only be revelling in one team's success, but setting up other teams with the right tools and practices to codify and extend DevOps success. At AND we call this Minimum Viable Alignment, establishing the smallest amount of common standards that allow delivery teams to repeat successes without creating chaos and reducing autonomy. If growth and scale is on your agenda for 2022, consider Minimum Viable Alignment.
“If DevOps is focused on constant testing and delivery, Agile is focused on constant change. The trends at the moment focus on people change and talent churn in organisations. This is because there’s a competitive technology market at play; it’s business-critical for companies to constantly look for ways to improve employee engagement and retain talent. Doing so ensures continued delivery velocity and prevents the loss of knowledge.
“Agile practices and frameworks are designed to promote engagement and reflection points within teams. Consider, for a second, how effective the agile framework you’re currently using is for sparking engagement. Does, for example, Scrum empower employees or is it merely used as a set of task management processes? Does anyone from the team say anything at the Sprint Review? Do your Sprint Retro action items have different owners each Sprint?
"Gallup’s Q12 Employee Engagement Survey shows that two of the core elements that correspond to high employee engagement are recognition and workplace relationships. In 2022 organisations need to evaluate if the Agile framework they use makes it easy for teams to create impactful relationships, and whether true recognition is being offered at the right points. In your next Retrospective as a delivery leadership team, consider those things: and create actions to remedy them if you’re not currently doing them.
“If you’re a company looking to start or move to an Agile approach in 2022, the first thing you need to do is establish your business goals and the principles you value. This is what’s often called your Team Charter. Don’t make this a top-down exercise; hold workshops to ensure all voices are heard and that all opinions are counted. You’ll find that making these principles and goals explicit will bring clarity to your understanding of why you want/need to move to a more agile way of working. Share these with everyone - employees and customers. It will bring clarity to employees, providing a clear rationale for any upcoming changes, and will help foster trust and loyalty with customers who will value transparency on your core beliefs and aims.
“Crafting and sharing these goals and values is vital. We see so many Agile transformations fail because companies move straight to the implementation of agile frameworks without first assessing why they are looking to do so."
People and Emotion
If there’s one skill that could help product people identify great new market opportunities, develop compelling launch strategies or post-launch product enhancements, what would it be? Principal Consultant Phill Gillespie explains.
“The answer to the question is this: the ability to genuinely understand your customers’ emotions.
“Emotions shouldn't be taboo. They are not something we should disown or pretend don't happen. Emotions are what makes us human beings and separate us from AI bots (and economists!). We are not logical creatures driven by value maximisation. We are human beings and we all know what it feels like to be alive!”
“Every person at any given moment has a multiplicity of emotions swirling going around their heads. Happiness, worry, love, fear, excitement, frustration. These are what help us achieve our goals and dreams, and what can sometimes stop us from making progress despite our best intentions.
“Really understanding customers and their emotions, on a deep level, is the key to helping them make progress. This isn’t about superficially expressing sympathy for them, but rather really feeling their pain, or their hope, or their worries: the emotions that are driving them. If you can start to master this skill - and it can be done - then you can build amazing solutions and experiences that genuinely help customers make progress. Jobs to be Done (JTBD) is a great technique to use to achieve this, either at a strategic or a practical product level.”
To explore an Agile, customer-centred approach to your product development, talk to us.