160 | Transformation Turnaround: Pivoting Towards New Opportunities – with Dan Greene

We’re continuing our series about transformation and turnaround with an episode focusing on how you can get engineering and the business to better understand each other and better solve problems, including how to deal with some nasty technical debt. Our guest also has some thoughts about microservices, a technical transformation strategy that’s still gaining popularity — but probably shouldn’t be.

Joining us is Daniel Greene, VP of Engineering at X-Mode. Dan has 22 years of software development experience with everything from big data analysis to cloud computing, including some time at 3Pillar Global working on product architecture. Dan offers a unique combination of strategic and tactical, and in this episode, he shares some valuable insights learned from tackling real-life transformation problems.

EPISODE HIGHLIGHTS

What are the common mistakes that people make when they’re trying to do a transformation or a turnaround?

  • It’s a cliché, but one of the biggest mistakes that Dan sees is organizations trying to boil the ocean. “[They] want to change everything all at once. And typically, that fails, to be blatantly honest.”
  • People often try to turn their product into a series of microservices, and while this might seem efficient or agile in theory, it just creates more work. If you’re not familiar, creating microservices is the act of breaking down every aspect of your product into small discrete services; everything is a tiny little software component that you, then, manage independently, “which sounds great, except when you realize now you’re managing hundreds of little tiny pieces. And as a person who has multiple buckets of Legos in his basement, managing tiny, tiny pieces is not fun.”
  • If you need a little more convincing that microservices are more of a headache than a solution, check out this visualization of the Netflix and Amazon Microservice Deathstars.

How does Dan help senior leadership make sure that they’re connected with the engineers and the information is going up and down?

  • Engineers operate best when they understand why they’re building what they’re building. For example, an engineer might not be fully aware of full business accounting systems, and they don’t necessarily have to be. But if you can give them the reason why you care about the account system, they’re going to operate in a manner that’s better supportive of the business as a whole.
  • On the business side, engineers really have to help them understand what it takes to deliver, and one of the things that can actually help here is the classic agile rituals of demos. Showing what you’re doing as you do it gives insight into how many steps it takes and all of the things that had to go into getting the product fixed, which will give some insight into the level of effort or the complexity that might be needed for them to really see the value delivered by the team.

LISTEN TO THE EPISODE

 

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