4 Ways to Lead a More Business-Savvy Software Engineering Team

Historically, software engineers have been siloed, with little or no influence over executive decisions. Fortunately, that has started to change as data is increasingly leveraged as an asset in boardroom discussions, driving collaboration across departments and roles. By being more connected to the broader business and understanding how their work specifically contributes to the bottom line, engineers become more valuable assets to their organization. I have outlined a few growth areas that can enable engineers to enhance their careers and show greater value to their organizations.

1. Understand the company’s vision

Everyone should always be able to sell their business and/or products to anyone, no matter what department, level or role they are in. To do this effectively, he must understand how the business works and what makes your company’s product unique in the world. market. This will help them understand user personalities and create better products. Software engineers need to step back to understand the big picture, and they can do this by asking questions that connect their work to the larger business. For example, when designing a user interface, understanding what makes your product better for the target consumer can influence your implementation and design decisions.

2. Understand how software is sold

Engineers are generally good at architecture and problem solving, but they are also invaluable when it comes to supporting and growing the business. By knowing precisely how the company makes money based on what it develops, engineers will be able to visualize their contributions in a more tangible way. For example, engineers often take advantage of connecting with sales teams to learn how the company bills customers, how the business model works once their code goes into production, and how new features can impact revenue. .

Knowledge of software sales, such as the difference between one-time spending and periodic renewals, can also help engineers design infrastructure differently so that it ultimately benefits the business better. There can be different trade-offs where an option might be cheaper, but it’s a matter of CapEx (capital expenditure) versus OpEx (operating expense), and the latter might be the company’s preference. For example, a SaaS platform may prefer OpEx because it makes it easier for them to bill the customer. When prioritizing customer-specific feature requests, it helps to think about the long-term value to customers based on the costs of implementation.

3. Learn to communicate effectively with the whole company

Engineers tend to focus on product development, and as a result, they may miss some of the business terms brought up in company-wide communications or meetings. For example, SQL means “Sales Qualified Lead” for sales and marketing teams, but “Structured Query Language” for engineering teams. Effective communication starts with understanding context and vocabulary terms. Engineering leaders and managers can help clear up any confusion of these types of terms by creating a glossary that includes commonly used definitions within the organization. For example, the glossary can explain the difference between an AE (Account Executive) and SA (Sales Associate), as well as the difference between TCV (Total Contract Value), ACV (Annual Contract Value) and ARR (Annual Recurring Revenue).

4. Embrace experiential learning

The ability to communicate with others in the company, at all levels and in all departments, about your work is an extremely valuable skill. As the business evolves, engineers become more involved in the planning process and are seen as full contributors.

So how should engineers acquire these new skills? Ideally, this expertise would be taught in school, so that everyone (including engineers) has a basic understanding of business and financial topics when entering the job market. That said, it’s never too late to start, and the more you learn, the more it will help you.

Every team member can benefit from learning as much as possible about other parts of the business, which makes it equally important for executives to learn more about engineering. For example, hands-on demonstrations where engineering and sales teams take turns sharing their work can be a great approach. Engineers can play the role of a customer and ask the sales team to show them the software. Not only will this increase the business knowledge of the engineer, but it can also help the sales team sell the software better.

This work is worth it, even if engineers are busy enough with their own work and this type of development may not be part of their traditional job description. When engineers have business and financial knowledge, they can feel more connected to other departments, more motivated in their roles, and more involved in business planning, which allows them to map the infrastructure architecture in based on their company’s preferred business model.

The bottom line is that knowledge is power. As engineers seek to advance their careers, developing business skills outside of their typical engineering roles will make them more indispensable assets to their company and lead to a more collaborative and efficient work environment.

Gordon K. Morehouse