Our Head of Technology Strategy, Russell Villemez, talks about how multi-year digital transformation roadmaps hinge on a successful Year One. Your beachhead - that first project that showcases the modern way to run the business–has the power to jumpstart enterprise transformation.
While every enterprise wants to modernize software engineering practices, there are certain organizational challenges standing in the way.
In my experience working with enterprise clients, I’ve noticed three operational patterns that hinder modernization: trouble navigating existing processes, dealing with management changes, and fear of failure.
1. Trouble Navigating Existing Processes
The difference between a modern enterprise and one struggling to adapt isn’t a lack of engineering talent. People working in an enterprise have all the experience and expertise needed to adopt modern methods. The real challenge is navigating all the enterprise processes to get work approved.
When large enterprises want to go agile, they have to change many of the processes that made them an enterprise to begin with. It doesn’t matter how much agile work is done, how many agile coaches are hired, or how many posters are put up to promote the new agile mindset. So many enterprises embrace the process, but still sink time creating PowerPoint presentations that give VPs/CTOs/CIOs visibility into timelines and traditional data points.
I’ve seen large chunks of development teams spend more time building these traditional reports than actually applying the agile mindset. Solving the problem isn’t as easy as spending less time on bureaucracy, though. If pipelines aren’t aligned to these traditional enterprise processes, it’s possible (often likely) that projects won’t get off the ground.
The key to solving this organizational challenge is to have buy-in from the top. It can’t just be the development teams embracing agile processes. The entire organizational pyramid has to align with agile tools and rely on the automated reports there.
When everyone in the organizational pyramid is aligned with agile tools, you can spend more time working on the business logic of projects and less time extracting data and pushing it up the chain of command.
2. Dealing with Management Changes
Companies of all sizes have to deal with management changes. However, the challenges of bringing in new management with different processes and visions are exaggerated in the context of large enterprises.
When new management comes in, the old experience has to be replaced and new hires have to go through lengthy onboarding processes. Unfortunately, the result is often a mix of overlapping teams and roles that impacts any attempts at modernization.
This happens more than anyone would like in the enterprise world. Talent and control within individual departments can only go so far without alignment at the management level.
The challenge continues to multiply as management continues to change, making this a difficult problem to solve. When you’re talking about departments that house thousands of employees, dealing with management changes is no trivial matter.
One thing I’ve noticed is that modern enterprises use collaboration and communication tools that tie into their Active Directories. That way, when you’re messaging someone about a project, you can see exactly where they stand in the organization and who else should be involved.
These tools help, but the key is to bring agile buy-in to the onboarding level so new management hires can quickly get up to speed and know how to move forward most efficiently.
3. Fear of Failure
At Dialexa, we believe in having small, nimble teams work together throughout the entire development process. But when you’re in an enterprise setting, there’s a need for bigger teams and greater distribution of responsibilities.
The problem is that pipelines are often documented to the point that an individual’s entire list of responsibilities can revolve around one task. Having an entire job rely on a single task can create a fear of failure because if a single thing goes wrong in development, people start placing blame.
Modern software engineering doesn’t work with fear of failure. Employees need to be comfortable enough to make mistakes so long as they learn from those missteps. When you have the right checks and balances in place to address these failures, you can build on them and continue iterating toward the end goal.
If you want to adopt modern methods, give employees room to fail, have a documentation strategy in place for mistakes, and leverage site reliability engineering to keep systems stable.
A New Perspective Can Help with Modernization
Every enterprise project is unique. However, past experience has shown us that it’s better to work with a client on business logic first and manage enterprise requirements second. Doing so gives us the flexibility to rework the pipeline along the way to meet deadlines.
This kind of flexibility can seem foreign to enterprise teams, but it’s the foundation of modern software engineering. Organizational challenges have become so entrenched in enterprise culture that modernization may seem far off. That’s where partnering with us can help—we can provide the perspective necessary to change your approach to development.
In the next part of this series, we’ll talk about the actual technologies and methods enterprises can use for modern software engineering. In the meantime, reach out to the Dialexa team for more information about how we can help solve the organizational problems hindering your modernization.