The idea for Pinpoint grew out of my experience building and running other companies, most recently Appcelerator. I’m an engineer—I still code, and I’ve contributed plenty to open source technologies. But even with that background, engineering has always felt to me like a black box. It’s hard to know what's going on in engineering, and how all that work connects back to our business goals. And that goes both ways. Plenty of times, engineers are so underwater trying to figure out how to make something work that they may have no idea why this thing matters to the business.

If I couldn’t bridge that gap, what’s it like for business leaders without a technical background?

Last week I sat down with Joel Beasley, host of the Modern CTO podcast, to talk about exactly this—and why I think our whole approach to engineering performance has to change. You can listen to the full podcast here.

Top takeaways

Leadership needs to understand why engineering projects happen, and CTOs need a way to advocate for engineering.

Too often, engineering departments look not just like a black box, but like a black hole. CTOs are always asking for more money for projects that are always late. Whether it’s a CTO making an ask to the CFO or a project manager asking his or her own managers for more resources, there should be a way to explain why engineering needs more team members or to spend time on a particular project—and the explanation should tie back to business outcomes.

We need to do a better job supporting developers.

If the Dodgers sign a $40 million contract with a star pitcher, they don’t then say, “Welcome to the team! You’re on your own now. Let us know if you win some games.” That would be insane, but it’s essentially how engineering works now. Star athletes are surrounded by coaches to help them continually improve their performance. It’s time for software departments to provide the same coaching to engineers—and just as in sports, that coaching needs to be based on hard data, not gut feel.

CTOs are starving for a data-driven way to measure and improve engineering performance.

I’ve talked to hundreds of C-level business leaders over the past year. Guess how many have said they’re not interested in using data to improve engineering performance? One. Of course we’re interested! We expect marketing teams to track and measure the results on their campaigns, and sales teams obviously have to track sales figures, so why not engineering? Have we given up hope that it’s possible?

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