Brian Rue is the CEO and co-founder of Rollbar.
Code is important — and not only to developers. Today, every business leader needs to care about code. Customers interact with you through your software, and every business’s software is made of code. If you’re not paying attention to code, it’s going to create problems for your business.
However, as a CEO or other top business leader, you may not know how to think about code. You may see software code as a black box — something that’s inaccessible to you. I’m going to demystify code by explaining what you need to know and how you can act on this information to enable better customer and business outcomes.
Look At The Signs — They’re Everywhereigns that software and, thus, code are important to your business are everywhere. Reports continue to remind us that the pandemic accelerated digital transformation. And it’s predicted that digital transformation spending will grow to $7.4 trillion over the years 2020 to 2023.
But the fact that code is important to business was clear well before all of that. Just look at the percentage of publicly traded companies that are technology companies and the fact that the IT sector produced the highest returns of any sector in the 10 years from 2009 to 2019 — a 390% return. It’s just staggering.
Get Into The Right Mindset — And Be Ready To Learn And Move FastFirst, consider how you think about software. If you see software development like manufacturing — a process in which you make a product and call it final — change that mindset.
Working with code is not like making widgets. It’s an iterative process based on research and improvement. The goal is to learn and improve as quickly as possible. You start with a rough product and discover how to make it better and iterate to improve it in both looks and functionality. When you learn fast, you can move rapidly to address bugs and errors in your code and make code improvements to deliver better user experiences that drive your business forward.
Understand How Code Metrics Map To Your Business OutcomesUse metrics to understand what needs to be improved and the rate at which you’re improving. Track these metrics: deployment frequency, lead time for changes, change failure rate and time to restore service. These metrics are backed by research, and they’re key for continuous code improvement. They’re important to your business, too.
Assess the various facets of your code and be aware of how they map to your business requirements. Here’s a key to help you translate developer-speak into business-speak:
• Developers talk about errors. For business, this translates to: Does your code work?
• Developers talk about security. For business, this translates to: Does your code not work for those for whom it’s supposed to not work?
• Developers talk about performance. For business, this translates to: Does your code run fast enough to work for users?
• Developers talk about flexibility. For business, this translates to: Can your code be quickly changed?
Plan With Continuous Improvement In MindCode is not perfect. Defects are endemic to code. Understand that, and act on that knowledge by designing your processes to anticipate failures. This will enable you to minimize the costs and time to resolve code bugs and errors.
That includes budgeting for handling errors in terms of tools, time and money. Expect your investment in the development team to include time and/or personnel for them to solve escalations and technical debt — fixing known bugs that are in a queue, waiting to be solved. Allow your team to purchase tools and alter processes to make this more efficient.
Recognize That You Need Quality Code To Be CompetitiveCompanies should be customer-led. In modern businesses, the primary way that customers interact with you is through your software or through your app. So, you need to make sure customers have a good experience using the app or your software, which means being focused on code.
As CEOs, we typically focus on metrics like revenue growth, net promoter scores and new customer logos, and we aren’t always aware that better code in the right places will directly impact these metrics. But “CEOs and other leaders can, and should, be intimately involved in software quality, just as they are with sales and finance divisions.” If you feel you need more expertise, consider adding a software developer to your board of directors.
Businesses are getting attacked from all sides, and those that are too slow to adapt and improve are being surpassed by the new, more agile businesses coming to market. The implications of this for business leaders is that if you’re a non-technical CEO, you’ve got to figure out that code is a way to improve your business — and that developer goals are business goals and vice versa.