Should CIOs manage engineering teams as an organization parallel to IT?
The engineering services market is now disrupting the IT services market. The shift to technology platforms and the number of engineers required poses a dilemma for CIOs. The need for engineering skills is growing faster than computer skills, and companies are investing more in the engineering function, somewhat at the expense of IT. CIOs cannot ignore this phenomenon. Does a CIO need to create an engineering organization parallel to the IT organization, or do engineers need to be part of the IT organization and perform some IT functions?
Businesses are using technology to change the way they operate their businesses. Many are now building or composing platforms that allow them to compete differently, serve their employees differently, and orchestrate their supply chains differently. As I explained in a previous blog, their platforms are creating a new operating model, which often results in a lower cost of service, but breaking down the old silos and functions of the organization, and a new kind. organization emerges.
How platforms affect IT investments
Many operational aspects change for companies building platforms. The way they invest in technology is changing. They can’t build platforms in pieces and let individual silos run. They now need an investment thesis against the platform itself.
One of the problems is that platforms change over time; they are not one and done. Because a company uses them to compete, and because they are deeply embedded in the fabric of the organization and the organization is deeply dependent on technology in an increased (more than historically) way, dependence on technology he regard for the technology of the organization is gaining momentum. It requires a different approach to governance and investments.
A team focused on engineering
Platforms need a platform manager or product manager who has end-to-end platform responsibilities. They also need a different kind of technical support.
Businesses now recognize that if they want to compete on a platform, they better understand and control the platform. That’s not to say that they don’t use third-party components in the platform. But they need an engineering-centric team that truly understands, owns, and shapes the platform.
Companies that historically lacked an engineering mindset (banking and healthcare, for example) now need it. A few years ago, you couldn’t find engineers in a healthcare company or a bank. They had computer scientists, but not engineers.
It may seem that engineering talent is a meaningless distinction with computer talent. But this is not the case. Engineers are different from programmers. They usually have engineering degrees and an engineering mindset, rather than an IT mindset.
Engineering teams are organized differently. They borrow from the Agile manifesto and create DevOps modules rather than operating in silos and functions. It is a manifestation of an engineering mindset. Their goal is to create and maintain platforms.
There are still many application areas and functions where traditional IT talent matches the goal, even with Agile methodologies implemented. But engineers have a lot more technical expertise and are paid differently from IT talent.
Of course, there are people with engineering qualifications who operate within IT in some companies; but they don’t act as engineers; they function as computer scientists who are also skilled in engineering.
Questions for the CIO
Historically, engineers were integrated into the trades. We are now starting to see them emerge as separate engineering organizations parallel to the IT organization. If you are a CIO, what do you do about this phenomenon? Here are several important considerations:
- Should engineering teams be part of the IT organization or should they be a parallel organization?
- Should engineers perform some of the same functions as computer scientists, and many other functions?
- What is the career path for talented engineers? is it different from IT talent
- What is the relationship of engineers with the company?
- What is the governance difference between engineering and IT talent?
As a CIO, you should adopt one of these options:
- Keep your organization focused on engineering while you run IT
- Work closely with your engineering director and allow a separate organization to emerge that has some overlap with your field
Trying to apply your company’s computer model to the engineering model will give poor results.
Most companies with a rich engineering history tend to run a separate parallel organization. Those with deep technology and a CIO organization tend to embrace integration engineering in the IT organization. Either approach can work.
It’s complicated because DevOps and Agile work in both organizations, but in the end, they’ll lead you towards an engineering-centric approach. Unlike the historical IT mindset of moving to low-cost locations for IT talent and services, an engineering-centric approach means you’ll pay more for more expensive, better-qualified talent. An engineering mindset focuses on how to get the best engineering in the world so your business can compete better and end up with a lower cost of service.