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Four Factors for Ensuring Software Success

Brandon M. Lewis
May 25, 2022 12:05:04 PM

In this article, we will discuss:


Companies need to think, act, and be digital in order to survive. As the CEO of Microsoft so eloquently put it; "Every company is now a software company. You have to start thinking and operating like a digital company." The IT department, once regarded as a cost center, is now a primary source of competitive advantage. The period of upheaval has just begun as game-changing technologies, such as A.I., IoT connectivity, and automation, are reaching a level of maturity that their applications shall soon expand exponentially. And yet, even with software's primacy as a driver of innovation and the threat of disruption by newcomers, it's all too often that software development receives very little attention from the C-suite. Tech executives rarely have the influence they would if they led finance or operations. Software strategy is determined at lower levels of management, despite its monumental impact on the company's present and future.

The C-suite needs to get it right from the start by recognizing software as the strategic priority it needs to be. Otherwise, they risk:

  • Lower profits – Software increases efficiency in operations, logistics, and supply chains, lowering costs. Neglecting software forfeits gains in efficiency.
  • Disruption – New technology threatens incumbent firms in almost every industry, from automotive to finance to insurance. No one wants to end up like Blockbuster or Kodak, but that fate awaits those who hesitate to grab the reins of their software development.
  • Customer dissatisfaction & churn – Software can open new channels of selling to customers and provide them with better experiences. From streamlined claims processing in insurance to improved customer experiences in e-commerce, software plays a pivotal role in ensuring customer satisfaction and engagement.

In order to successfully lead their software organizations and create software strategies, executives need to be literate in software development. They of course don't need to know or understand code, but they should have some grasp of the technologies behind software innovations as well as of the health and progress of their own software development organizations. 

Some companies attempt to make up this deficit technical knowledge through strategic acquisitions of tech startups. While there are of course success stories, such as Walmart or Cisco, a majority of cases aren't as frictionless. A study by J. Daniel Kim found that within three years of an acquisition 60% of the startup employees will have left. There are strategies to mitigate this risk, such as acquiring more established startups and promoting its leaders within your own company. 

A digital boardroom can also be of great help in digitalization efforts. Software development suffers from a lack of transparency, which in turns makes it difficult to manage and highly inefficient. A digital boardroom provides a suite of real-time KPIs that enables executives to oversee the progress of the digital initiatives without requiring a background in tech. Through this newfound transparency, the entire C-suite is able to understand and gain control of software development efforts so as to align them with overall corporate goals. 

Let's dive into some of the other key software-related strategies that executives need to consider.

Cloud Services

Any company not already utilizing cloud services should make a rigorous and calculated decision of how to implement a migration into the cloud. Here, there are two approaches for executives to choose from. A Brownfield strategy involves creating an architecture that uses existing code as a base and with cloud applications developed separately. This results in a shorter time-to-market. A Greenfield strategy involves starting from scratch and is the superior strategy for companies with a cloud-first strategy. Software analytics can be applied to safeguard a migration.

Product Managers as Product CEOs

Product managers should combine the technical knowledge of a developer with the business acumen of an executive. They should set the strategy and vision for the product's features and take ultimate responsibility over its eventual success or failure. Product managers should ensure that software is developed with the user in mind by using user research, storyboarding, and customer-journey analysis. The user experience should be central to the development process.

Quality Assurance Approach

For the first time, it's become possible to measure software development productivity and efficiency. Software process mining can uncover code high in technical debt or defects, enabling development times to quickly fix the situation. KPIs can identify best performing teams so that managers can spread their best practices. Test automation can also be integrated into the development process to ensure that the delivered code meets requirements. 

Talent Enablement 

One of the greatest software challenges for many employers is cultivating and expanding its IT talent. While pay is of course an important factor, it's even more important to build a true community for software engineers. Developers who feel valued are much less likely to leave than those who merely have a decent paycheck. Improving a sense of autonomy by reducing bureaucracy and managers can go a long way. Many community-building efforts, such as hackathons or dev days, not only increase a sense of belonging, but also can serve the company by promoting the distribution of knowledge and ideas. 

Facit

The expanding importance and application of software throughout business has made the neglect of software strategy unforgivably negligent. Executives must create a software strategy aligned with corporate goals and objectives or face disruption through new and more innovative competitors. While there are many factors to consider and software can be complex, digital boardrooms can simplify the strategic oversight and management of IT for non-techies and software experts alike. Software process mining can improve efficiency by at least 30%, helping to get the most out of every valuable developer hour.