No such thing as a software department

I had a significant moment in conversation with a potential new data scientist for Signify last week. He was saying how he saw himself working well with the programmers in a Software Department… And something tripped inside my head. “We will never have a software department” I announced with confidence, having just realised it in that moment.

The idea not to have a software department only became clear in that moment, but looking back, I can see it’s been brewing for a long time. Now it’s obvious to me, and a fundamental principle of my philosophy of both software and organisation.

A definition of Digital Transformation

Its very hard to find any agreement about what digital transformation is. For me, it now has something to do with not having a software department. In a digitally transformed organisation, software development is just another skill in a multi-skilled team.

Having arrived at this definition of what it means to create a digitally transformed organisation, I realised I needed to shift a few of my practices.

No more tech superstition

I am always ranting about getting rid of superstitious beliefs in our processes. As we define the algorithms for what Signify does, I am always going on at people about the places in their work where “they do their magic”. These are the places where we always need to dig deeper to uncover what is going on. Unfortunately I never really applied this to my personal contributions.

When I dived into building some code to extract data from some source, or looked to add another link in our technical tool chain, I just went off and did my mysterious work. No-one knew what it really was, it just happened and I came back with some magic.

This has to end.

Essential skills for non-siloed tech startups

In these early days where just four people are laying the foundations for a new business, most of the patterns for the future structure organisation are being laid. Each of the decisions, and, more importantly, the way we made them will echo into the future, defining our culture. If I don’t lay the foundations of shared technical awareness now, then I am creating an organisation that will see the programming team as something separate in the future.

I don’t expect everyone to be programmers. There is no need for that at all, but no-one should believe that programmers are anything special. So, in these early days I need to demystify all the elements of my work, making sure that everyone is at home with APIs, tokens and VMs, no-one should be afraid of looking at code, each member of the team should be able to identify what steps in our processes are at the level where they can be automated.

Power to the people

There is no space for fear of technology in a digitally transformed organisation. It is fear of the machines that gives them the power to “cast a glamour” over us, remove our free will and manipulate us. When we all understand what the computers do, we can make wiser choices, and use technology in an appropriate way.

So, it’s time for me to change my ways, to move a little slower and ensure that tech understanding is shared across everyone in the organisation. None of these ideas are really all that complex anymore, soon (I would hope) they will be taught to children as the fundamentals of their future lives.

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It’s time to change the world. It’s time to create the future that we need. I seek the inflection points that can make tomorrow a better place.

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