Engineering culture problems aren’t always easy to identify, but there are some telltale signs we’ve noticed over the years of supporting our clients with all-things tech. If you spot these problems in your teams, it’s time to take action.
The rest of the business keeps away
If other departments avoid engaging with the technology department, a storm may be brewing. You may notice that, if other departments do engage, the technology department is just perceived as a cost centre, not an opportunity to add value. In these kinds of scenarios, the technology department is rarely invited to help with product decisions.
Silos are stifling projects
When it comes to projects, siloed teams separately work on code, testing, infrastructure, and operations. Projects feel like they’re thrown over the fence and they take a long time to deliver – if they even get delivered at all. When a project is delivered, end users only see value when the whole project is complete.
New talent isn’t interested
It’s a constant struggle to hire and retain developers, plain and simple. When you ask candidates why they’re not keen to join, they’re not forthcoming. There seem to be so many more exciting opportunities for them in the market.
There’s no autonomy, or there’s full-on anarchy
All too often, developers are seen as code writers to be strictly managed. In these instances, the same technology and approaches are applied to every problem. Deviations from this are quickly stopped and new technologies and tools are rarely introduced. At the other end of the scale lies anarchy. In these kinds of scenarios, nothing gets done. The systems built are complex and riddled with defects. Developers prioritise fixing problems that users will never see, often jeopardising the customer experience in the final product. When something goes wrong, nobody takes ownership or steps up to fix it.
Of course, the sweet spot is somewhere between autonomy and anarchy. Here, you can reap all sorts of benefits and stay immune from extremes.
Here’s how to solve a culture problem
The most potent remedy we know of is striving for continuous delivery. This enables organisations to reduce the amount of planning, and react to business and customer needs faster. It requires a lot of changes in the organisation, chief among them the move from functional silos to autonomous, cross-functional teams. People on such teams feel more empowered, they have more knowledge of the domain, take more ownership, and ultimately enjoy the work more. Continuous delivery also needs to be supported by flexible infrastructure and good testing strategy with high levels of automation.
A final word – it’s worth it. Engineering culture takes a long time to foster. Trusting people and giving them time to learn is essential. But the return on this investment can be immense, enabling you to respond to changing customer and business needs within hours, and outmaneuvre your competitors. All with happy, thriving tech teams.