Software is eating our managers, but that's okay, we have containers

Software work -- like software itself -- is breaking down into autonomous units. Expect the rest of the organization to follow.
Written by Joe McKendrick, Contributing Writer

We often don't tend to think of software development as a trendsetter for the rest of the business, but that's exactly what's been happening over the past few years. For the year ahead, expect the software world to continue to set the pace for the rest of the world.

Photo: Michael Krigsman

Omed Habib, director of product marketing at AppDynamics, recently published some compelling thoughts on why the rest of the world is following the lead of the software world, and how we'll be seeing evidence of this in the year ahead.

Human teams become their own "microservices": The microservices model "applies to more than just software," Habib points out. Lately, software teams "are acting more like independent business units." He illustrates how the microservices model has reshaped management practices within some of the big thought-leading companies such as Google and Amazon:

"Individual and autonomous application teams are organized around specific business objectives. At Google, these application teams include a crucial new role: site reliability engineers (SREs) who combine development and operations skills. As Google's Ben Treynor defined it, 'The SRE is fundamentally doing work that has historically been done by an operations team, but using engineers with software expertise, and banking on the fact that these engineers are inherently both predisposed to, and have the ability to, substitute automation for human labor.'"

This year, expect to see such loosely coupled, autonomous teams to be seen more in industries beyond software, Habib predicts. "You will see more work teams that include their own developers, deployment models, performance engineers, business analysts and product management teams. Like miniature companies within a company, they will operate as autonomous groups responsible for innovation, execution, deployment, application performance monitoring, and business performance monitoring."

Speaking of microservices.... Agile methodologies will gain even more credence over the coming months and years, fueled by three technology movements -- microservices, containers, and DevOps. The flexibility and freedom from underlying systems and calcified processes these new ways of deploying software offer will boost the Agile principles of "interactions over processes, minimal viable products and responses over planning," says Habib. "Enterprise software is now a whirling mass of microservices, APIs, and containers in constant communication with each other through the hybrid cloud."

More "crowdsourcing"of development work: Almost contradictory to the trend toward autonomous software-driven business units is the crowdsourcing of projects -- which may mean more entrepreneurial opportunities, but built on piecemeal work. "The manager still sets expectations and manages routines, but now the coder's primary transaction is with automation," Habib relates. "They submit code and move on to the next assignment. Managers many not even know the people (or bots) who submitted the code." He notes how one 100% crowdsourced enterprise, Elastic.co, creator of Elasticsearch, "has built up enough contributors to challenge Splunk for the log analysis market."

The lessons of application performance are increasingly being applied to business performance. Habib says the lessons learned from application performance management can be applied to all processes across the business. (By the way, this is AppDynamics' business, so he sees this firsthand.) There's now impetus to apply the same digital performance metrics to business on a wider scale. "Real-time insights into the customer experience can auto-correlate the relationship between specific performance data and business goals," says Habib.

The bottom line is that every business is becoming a software business, so people who know software need to step up and lead. Habib quotes AppDynamics CEO David Wadhwani in this regard: "Accelerate your careers, redefine your goals. Don't think of yourselves as IT professionals, think of yourselves as business owners who happen to run the technology as well."

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