Mandated remote work and a surge in online buying and digital customer interactions have put pressure on software engineering. Due to the pandemic, software has become front and center for virtually every enterprise’s go-forward strategy.
While the crisis has caused near-term business disruption, clear hotspots for innovation have emerged that modern software engineering can better address, such as enhancing operational efficiencies and improving decision making. These include moving more offline processes online, leveraging AI to boost process effectiveness, and revamping the customer experience.
Software is the glue that binds all this together. However, our 2019 global software engineering study found that while organizations recognized the value of this critical capability, progress has been slow. That has likely changed now.
What will be needed to succeed? Technologies, processes and, above all, a culture that enables companies to stay ahead of customer expectations will be key. We recommend the following steps to help reimagine software engineering:
- Embrace modern approaches. Adopting a software product engineering mindset, a seemingly small shift in thought process, also requires a customer-focused, outcome-oriented approach. It can be supported through Agile and DevOps practices, as well as new automation and cloud-based application development tools. We experienced first-hand the benefits this approach brings when we helped a leading European communications service cut its operational expenses 20%, thus reducing the total cost of ownership.
- Build a data-driven ecosystem. Digital tools that help extract value from data are more important than ever. Suceeded includes recruiting more people with advanced data skills; providing data preparation tools for data management for end users; and establishing new data privacy and security processes and tools. All in all, addressing issues related to legacy systems and processes while extracting more value from existing and emerging data – a need accentuated by the Covid crisis – requires a data-driven leadership.
- Make cloud central to digital infrastructure. In the post-Covid world, cloud strategies must balance cost savings and operational flexibility with an unlocking of innovation to deliver the top- and bottom-line boost business needs. This means overcoming the obstacles linked to organizations’ software engineering efforts, like tracking of cloud assets, overview of the cloud environment, and optimizing IT capacity. In our experience helping clients migrate their work to the cloud, we’ve found as much as an 80% reduction in application development cycles. By turning cloud migration into a routine, streamlined activity, businesses can gain much needed visibility into their cloud environment.
- Modernize collaboration with virtual pods. Pods, which are a popular collaborative approach in software development, are small teams consisting of cross-functional talent. A challenge as work suddenly turned remote. It’s critical for businesses to adapt their engagement practices to an online-only environment. Apart from the digital tools, these teams must operate within a culture that encourages ideation, prototyping, coding, and testing of new ideas.
- Master human-centric design. In a socially distanced and virtual world, understanding customer needs becomes even more essential. In our software engineering study, we found that many businesses are leaning on behavioral science, big data modeling of customer interactions, and (to a lesser extent) predictive AI to anticipate customer needs. For software developers, this translates into working closely with the product owners and using Agile methodologies to create minimum viable products that can then be quickly deployed and tracked.
- Foster a culture change to enable the digital future. All the above requires a culture that embraces and complements today’s new digital reality. Everything from team structures and talent acquisition, to how the organization views the contribution of software engineering to its growth, have to be revisited. Allowing a “fail-fast, learn-fast” mindset to flourish across the organization is key.
For more information, also read the whitepaper Becoming a Software-Centric Business: Best Path Forward in an Uncertain Post-COVID-19 World.