Uniksystem Supports “Mckinsey Digital” article that highlights the importance of building a software culture in a business, which involves valuing engineering, elevating product leadership and having a customer-first focus, and empowering leadership with a strong understanding of software business models and technology.
Commit to a software culture
“Every leader we spoke with underlined the fact that building a software-centric business means building a software culture. This goes way beyond adding a few software veterans and implementing DevOps (software development and IT operations). It requires building a culture that deeply values the creativity and artisanship of great engineering, elevates product leadership and a customer-first focus, and empowers a leadership team with a strong understanding of software business models and tech. Building that culture is challenging, but the CEOs and business leaders we spoke with highlighted three keys to success: leadership, communication, and investment."
Invest in empowered product managers
“You can’t build world-class software capabilities without world-class software product managers. They turn the creative force of engineers and designers into winning software products and services. They have end-to-end accountability and, in some cases, even full profit-and-loss responsibility for a specific product. In the tech world, the ascendancy and importance of product managers are well established. But few nontech companies give them commensurate responsibilities or influence. That’s a big mistake."
“Leaders we spoke with identify two key characteristics of a great product manager. First, such managers obsess over usage data and leverage it to do everything from knowing customers and informing the product road map to making product retirement decisions and helping users capture value more quickly. They embrace active field testing and experimentation to get data so that they can continuously improve the product."
“Second, a great product manager has great “product sense” in the same way that a top horse trainer has “horse sense.” Based on years of experience and a mindset unconstrained by norms, successful product managers have an intuitive ability to understand how tech can address an issue in a new way. They involve designers, engineers, and data scientists early in the ideation phase to tap a wide range of unconventional thinking."
When Walgreens wanted to develop its health business, the company gave product managers leadership roles so that they could rethink how customers interact with pharmacies. This shift has expanded the range of interventions (including medical tracking and testing, medication monitoring, and the role of genomics in specialty medication treatments) that the pharmacy considers. “You really start seeing the future on behalf of the consumer, and then you intervene much earlier in that journey,” says Vish Sankaran, former Walgreens chief innovation officer.
Drive engineering excellence through autonomous teams and flexible architecture
“Good software development can’t thrive in a hierarchical organization. CEOs we spoke with are clear that providing product teams with the autonomy to experiment, try new tech, and develop their own solutions is critical. As mentioned, this starts with providing product managers with the freedom and accountability to lead their cross-functional teams as they see fit to deliver on a given goal. This autonomy can be supported with key mechanisms (such as objectives and key results) to drive accountability for outcomes and with automated functions (such as testing) that not only speed up development but also put in place guardrails to limit risk."
“For software teams to work autonomously, they need a flexible tech architecture. Core components of this architecture include APIs that can access the underlying data, algorithms, and processes in legacy systems; a set of microservices (essentially self-contained units of code that execute a specific function) that are modular and connect into APIs, eliminating the dependencies that plague legacy systems where a change in one part of the code typically requires multiple changes in others; and a common data platform that knits disparate data sources into a single accessible pool that developers can easily access."
“BlackRock’s Aladdin is an example of a technology business that brings together all aspects of the investment workflow onto a common system. To support scaled development within BlackRock and at Aladdin’s external clients, Aladdin features an open architecture that helps both internal and external developers create applications easily. “The way people are interacting with software is changing,” says Sudhir Nair, global head of the Aladdin Business at BlackRock. “Today, at BlackRock and at our Aladdin clients, a meaningful portion of the organization self-identifies as technologists, and a big chunk of those people don’t sit within the part of the business formally recognized as the tech org. We enable these ‘citizen developers’ with access to the building blocks of our underlying tech, in addition to underlying microservices—giving them the ability to innovate without sacrificing scale and controls.”"
Win at software by playing the ecosystem game
“The software ecosystem is a mix of independent tech companies and 30 million to 40 million full-time and independent developers, some of whom are “citizen developers” (essentially, businesspeople using no- and low-code tools to develop software). Software companies increasingly need to tap into this broad ecosystem to access the developer talent that they need to compete."
“Acquiring or accessing software developers, nurturing them, and delivering a great experience for them is critical to winning in software. Leading companies tap into this developer ecosystem through two strategies."