My thanks to Abidemi Ogunbowale-Thomas, Digital Senior Manager, for sharing his expertise on this topic.

Nowadays, there’s so much attention focused on the rise of the robots that the engineers who create them are getting overlooked. In this post, we’ll look at why this is such a key issue for financial services organisations, and what they can do about it.

The objective? Fostering cultures where hard-to-find and hard-to-retain engineers will feel included, respected and inspired.

In our experience, too many organisations are still failing to look after their engineers. Why’s that such a mistake? Because to thrive in the digital era, organisations need the agility that comes from bringing technology to the decision-making core of the business. And that means radically reassessing the role of engineers within the organisation.

Up to now, engineers have often been taken for granted. They’re the people who get the code written. End of story. That outlook needs to change. As a starting point, banks need to recognise that engineering is an art form.

Engineers and technologists see themselves as digital artisans, craftspeople who’ve studied hard to acquire and hone their specialist skills. And they expect work that challenges and stimulates them in equal measure. If they don’t get it, their productivity can be critically affected.

This new awareness should help banks to build true engineering cultures. These have three strands running through them:

  • First, learning. Technology advances quickly, so organisations must inspire their engineers to keep pace. Because recruitment can be difficult, expensive and time-consuming, it makes much better sense to invest in upskilling the existing workforce. Structured training programmes and personal development days are both important. A focus on learning has an added benefit: It gives the organisation deep insight into their engineers’ current (and targeted) capabilities. The ideal? FullStack engineers, people with coding expertise in multiple applications. But they’re few and far between. The more realistic goal? Having a team of t-shirt engineers who are willing to keep learning new skills.
  • Second, make sure engineers have the tools they need to get the job done. We’ve seen too many companies expecting their engineers to deliver the world, but with devices that are slow and ineffective. This wastes time and impacts productivity. It’s also demoralising and can create a vicious blame cycle between the business and engineers.
  • Third, focus on transparency and equal voice. Business decision-making is much less likely to be shared and understood in organisations where departments are siloed. And that lack of business value context is like blindfolding engineers and then asking them to deliver market-leading solutions. Equally, engineering must have a voice at the top table to influence decision-making and the direction the business is taking.

The benefits of sharing the bigger business picture can be seen at Facebook: Engineers there get to see the monetary impact, positive or negative, of their work. Adopting a similar approach doesn’t just lead to better solutions; it’ll make your engineers feel like they’re part of something bigger than coding. That will increase their job satisfaction and, as a result, their effectiveness.

By tying these three strands (learning, tools and transparency) together, banks will cultivate skilled, fulfilled engineers who are also business savvy. Cultures like these are the lifeblood of the Netflixes and Googles of this world, where the work engineers do is integral to the broader business strategy. But from what we see, banks are still lagging a long way behind.

We’ve provided a comprehensive to-do list. But what’s the fundamental message? Ultimately banks won’t change their cultures until they commit to bridging the divide between the business and IT. Technologists have to be business-aware. And business people need to understand technology. This is imperative for the future. And guess what? The future’s already started.

 

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