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Bring developers into the fold: Blending ‘business brains’ with ‘IT intelligence’
Mon 27 July 2020 - 6:48 amTech
Sam Hunt discusses how ‘innersourcing’ and connectedness within business teams, particularly IT teams and developers, can accelerate growth.
Digital disruption and continued global uncertainty have forced companies to fundamentally shift how they create products and services whilst staying relevant.
Agile businesses are now able to compete with their larger rivals and react to external circumstances more rapidly thanks to the use of savvy software development and open source collaboration – a scenario revolutionising entire economies.
Case in point, developers in Africa created 40% more open source repositories in 2019 than the year before – a higher percentage growth than any other continent – demonstrating the power of code to empower developers around the world.
As software innovation transforms and disrupts businesses, and consumers push for more digital services, the stars of the software revolution are most certainly developers. However, they are often a group left in ‘lonely dark corners’ of companies.
So how can business leaders bring developers into the fold to effectively blend business brains with IT intelligence? Business leaders need to start with a focus on collaboration, smash the silo approach and embrace innersourcing to champion developers as an integral part of innovation.
Collaborate and coordinate
Companies, large and small, need to build software in more open and collaborative ways and encourage collaboration and resource sharing across teams. This effectively combines the ‘business brains’ of an organisation (CIOs) with the ‘IT intelligence’ heads (developers).
Traditional enterprises may need to recalibrate their approach to achieve the ‘right balance’ between business-led and developer-led decision making. It needs to align CIO goals with the developers’ realities and elevate the role of the developer to become an integral part of business development decisions.
From on-demand services like Uber to the data-driven phenomenon of Netflix, to the Australian player Sendle (a challenger to Australia Post), these disruptors understand the importance of collaboration and ‘power of code’ to deliver products and services rapidly, reliably and repeatedly.
The ‘business brains’ do well to take note of how developers operate, championing the principles of open source – collaboration and innovation. These principals encourage teams to think outside the box and adopt collaborative working methodologies that drive new ideas and efficiencies. When open source is at the heart of an organisation, teams benefit from enhanced integration where ideas thrive and can continue to flourish.
Smash the ‘silo’ approach
A common speed bump on the road to greater collaboration and bringing developers into the fold is organisational silos, thwarting cross-team communication. A survey by Clear Company found that almost 9 in 10 executives and employees ‘blame a lack of collaboration or bad communication for team problems and failures,’ an issue that is exacerbated by silos.
Developers are already used to working without silos, as it is at odds with the principles of open source collaboration. Developers intrinsically want to share and build upon the best ideas, taking what has already been created and using it as the jumping-off point for new projects. Developers also lean on the wider community to problem-solve issues, bounce ideas off or share resources – a deeply collaborative way of working.
Business leaders should lean into the workflow championed by developers, bringing the silo-less approach to the broader business. Identifying team members who exemplify collaboration within teams is a great place to start, with these people responsible for driving innovation through increased communication.
How businesses can maximise efficiency with innersourcing
This collaboration can be enhanced by adopting the principles of open source within the company firewalls – a practice called innersourcing. At the core, innersourcing supports collaboration and increases communication between areas that would typically operate in silos, improving efficiency as well as enabling faster innovation, by fostering a culture of growth and change.
‘Business brains’ should look to adopt the practices that encourage this fast-moving development process, not just within the IT function but more broadly. For example, providing developers with the option to contribute to projects outside their immediate teams and inviting them to brainstorms and project planning sessions, listening to their opinions and making amends based on the team’s feedback.
In the same way that developers regularly assess processes to find out what is holding them back (whether it’s inefficiencies or lack of transparency), business leaders should look to do the same and encourage this culture of collaboration and growth.
As software development continues to drive business innovation, business and IT department leaders must set up their employees for success with the right mix of business brains and IT intelligence. This is done by ensuring developers have a seat at the table and can champion open-source values freely. Driving organisation-wide collaboration, smashing any silos and adopting an innersourcing workflow will enable teams to deliver products and services more quickly than ever before.
Sam Hunt is VP APAC at GitHub.
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