Earlier I shared the story of how we developed version 1.0 of our Technology Manifesto (5.27MB, PDF), and how our global Technology team is working together to create version 1.1. I also promised to share some of my thoughts on what the Manifesto means to me. These won’t be in any particular order, and will be my personal reflections.
I’ll start with the idea that we should find the best person for every job, and get out of their way.
In this section, we say that we need the best people in the industry. We also say that, while everyone is different, we all aim to demonstrate some common attributes: we aspire to be passionate customer advocates, technology enthusiasts, collaborative experts, keen learners, business transformers, effective followers and proud owners.
The recognition that we need the best people in the industry reflects a big change in the way companies think their technology teams. While companies have always recognised the value of these teams in theory, for many years they did not show it in practice: many companies have behaved as if technology is a non-differentiating, back-office capability, and that we should therefore source technology capability in a cost effective and reliable way. We now know, partly by observing some of the world’s most successful companies, and partly because it is impossible to ignore the technology driven revolution we are all living through, that the quality of a company’s technology team is a powerful competitive advantage, and that every member of the team matters.
It also matters that we have the best person in every job. Sometimes, when companies set out a vision for their technology team, they talk as if the only jobs which are valued are those which use technology invented in the last five years, and, consciously or unconsciously, downplay the value of people who look after the systems which have been successfully running the company for years. We believe that all of our technologies and all of our technologists are important: the best person for the job of running our core banking systems or payments systems are probably the people who built them and run them today.
Making sure that we have the best person for every job is hard, but getting out of their way can be even harder. Those of us in management roles often have the instincts, backed up by years of practice, that our job is to tell our people what to do. After all, if that isn’t our job, what’s the point in us being here? It takes some mental recalibration to behave as if, once we have the best people in every job, our role is not to tell them what to do, but to create an environment in which they can do their best work, support them, and get obstacles out of their way. For many of us who moved into management years ago, this is not the job we were taught to do. It is though, the job we need to do, and unless we can master it, we are not the best person for that job.
The corollary of finding the best person for every job is that we also try to find the best job for every person. It means that, as we automate the manual heavy lifting that has plagued the IT industry for decades, we can more clearly appreciate the distinctive value of every individual. However, as we say in the Manifesto, while we are all individuals, there are certain things we all aspire to be:
Passionate customer advocates: when I started my technology career, it was impossible to imagine that customers would ever access our systems directly. Now our customers interact with us through technology more frequently than any other way. The Technology team is a core part of the customer experience, as well as holding great responsibility for the management of customer data. We aim to think about our customers in whatever we build.
Technology enthusiasts: while we care about our customers and our business, we also care about technology. We find it fun and exciting. Many of us deliberately got into this profession because we love working with computers, and we like using them to build things. We try to maintain that enthusiasm and curiosity throughout our careers.
Collaborative experts: even though we help people become full stack engineers and full stack architects, it’s no longer possible (if it ever was) for any one person to master all of the different technologies we use: we rely on people to become deep experts. We also rely on those people to share their expertise with others: to become honest and open educators and advisors to their colleagues.
Keen learners: as well as sharing our expertise, we also want that expertise to grow. There’s a good thing about not being able to know everything: it means that there’s always something new to learn. We’ve created our Technology Academy to provide resources to help people learn in their own style.
Business transformers: these days, little business change is delivered without technology change. Changing a process, a product or a customer experience, all require changes to technology. That means that we need to understand our business as well as we understand our technology.
Effective followers: some of us are leaders, but all of us are followers: we all have bosses, and we all have customers whose direction we need to follow. But we don’t need to follow it blindly. We believe that effective followers are those who feel able to speak up, to challenge, to help adjust our course of action, and follow better because they believe more strongly.
Proud owners: we aim to build solutions that we can be proud of. And being proud of a solution means being proud of all aspects: of its features and functions, but also of its track record of service, of how quickly we can change it, of how much it costs to run, and how easy it is to understand and maintain.
That’s a lot to live up to, and it’s only one page of the Manifesto. As I described a couple of weeks ago we have just started the conversation across the Technology team to figure out how we help each other live up to these goals, and how we measure our success. I’ll share more about what we find and how we do in a later blog post.