The executive your company needs to “do more with less”
For decades the blueprint for having a market-leading technical organization was simple: hire as many of the world’s best engineers as possible. The result of this practice unfortunately led to runaway compensation packages and ballooning perks, but the message was clear — do whatever it takes to attract and acquire the best technical talent.
This land-grab hiring strategy can quickly become industry standard in a frothy market, but it’s just not feasible when the market normalizes. Why? The obvious; there’s a finite number of top engineers. But what’s more acute is that today’s technical environment demands different practices — by doing more with less.
As companies grapple with market uncertainty and, as a result, hiring freezes, headcount reduction, and overall belt-tightening, the need still remains to bring high quality software products to market on-time and under budget. Market uncertainty doesn’t change the fact that companies are still under pressure to grow by adding products, scaling new businesses, and growing internationally with the same, if not fewer, resources.
The question then becomes, how can I get more productivity and higher quality products from the same number of engineers or fewer? A very small number of the most innovative companies in the world have already identified this secret weapon — a leader whose singular focus is driving engineering productivity — enter the VP, Engineering Productivity.
When a company scales up its operations, the VP, Engineering Productivity ensures that engineering teams are operating efficiently and uniformly and have the right development environment in place to support sustainable growth.
This function was once confined to and underutilized within IT, where engineering challenges are often solved through the acquisition of yet another piece of software. However, as the most sophisticated multi-product software companies started to scale aggressively into new markets and geographies, they began to introduce this productivity function into their Product Development organization. These industry leaders recognized the need to have this function embedded in their product development teams’ workflow and as close to the problems engineering teams are trying to solve. This way, there is a dedicated group implementing specific frameworks and tools into the development process to drive efficiencies within the relevant environment. Lastly, these companies recognized and cleverly capitalized on engineers’ inherent bias towards experimentation and efficiency and applied it as a sustainable solution to address this product development challenge.
So, what does this function actually focus on? A VP, Engineering Productivity will:
Ensure optimal use of finite resources by:
- Reducing complexity in systems, especially when merging redundant acquired systems — and reducing legacy tech debt. This leads to systems and processes that are more streamlined and holistic in output.
- Replacing rigid, unscalable third-party products with homegrown platforms and tooling that meet the specific needs of a company’s software environment. This leader can make a company less beholden to outside vendors and can free up cash that can be invested in other areas of the business.
- Automating as much as possible to ensure that technology platforms and infrastructure can scale as needed to support innovation and growth. As one of our friends in this function likes to say, “Automate everything that can be automated and kick anything that can’t be automated until it can be.”
Accelerate innovation and growth by:
- Driving a culture of experimentation by creating a development environment that ensures experimentation can be done in a controlled way — but quickly adopted across teams if successful.
- Establishing metrics that award and shine a light on new ways of thinking and building.
- Creating shared services and uniform platforms that allow product teams to focus on new features and functionality — the underlying infrastructure is then ready to go. As a result, duplicative efforts are reduced, and engineering teams only have to focus on the highest value projects and not the underlying plumbing.
- Implementing common pipelines and CI/CD practices to increase visibility and time to market while simultaneously reducing manual processes. Increased visibility across the organization leads to massive gains in software quality.
Manage risk and ensure security by:
- Partnering closely with the CISO and the security organization to bring to life the overall enterprise security strategy by building a company’s security posture directly into the product and underlying infrastructure. Security leaders have continued to emerge as a critical partner to secure product development and data security, which remains a top priority in enterprise security strategy. Check out SPMB’s recent survey results on how top security leaders are navigating 2023.
- Implementing AI and automation in the development process to ensure uniform and reliable governance and compliance practices.
- Developing robust disaster recovery plans and protocols that enable engineering to push the limits of development without fear of breach or disaster.
Align technology with business goals by:
- Ensuring the architecture and product roadmap meet the pace of the business model, GTM motion, and strategic growth.
- Identifying technology trends and efficiencies to increase margins and overall business performance.
- Monitoring their own value. Top engineering productivity leaders are typically quite expensive; however, they are one of the few functions on the “L” side of the P&L that can very easily and accurately calculate their ROI. In fact, the best leaders in the space can clearly articulate, “While you may be paying me X, here’s how I can save you 10X.”
Plainly put — if a VP, Engineering Productivity is doing their job right, they’re minimizing costs, maximizing efficiency, and helping your company successfully do more with less.
If your organization is wrestling with challenges within its development organization, and you think it may benefit from the outcomes outlined above, please contact us. We would be happy to share what we’ve learned in terms of how companies across industries have effectively adopted and integrated this role, the nuances of the role itself from company to company (including what different orgs call it), and what to look out for when making this hire.