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Why Transparency in Engineering Matters

Stefan Gruber

Written by:
April 11th, 2019

We’ve all been there – small engineering team, everyone sits in the same room, communication is easy, efficient and everyone understands what’s going on. But what happens when teams scale? The team implements “agile” weekly cycles, daily standups and sync meetings with management to prioritize projects. However, it never truly stays that succinct. In reality, a lot of changes are thrown in, requirements are defined on-the-go and plans are thrown overboard in order to appease upper management or the most urgent customer.

In the end, no one really knows what’s actually going on.

Outside of introducing an engineering process (i.e. scrum or kanban), the best approach is to get rid of missing, or even wrong, information and assumptions across your company.

Who do you involve?

Who needs to be informed about what projects? The CTO doesn’t necessarily care that you replaced an ‘if then’ with a switch statement, but they will want to know if a feature loads faster or consumes less CPU. It’s important to understand the difference between who needs to be consulted vs who just needs to be informed.

Product Management

Open lines of communication between product management and engineering are essential to the success of your company. They should always be aware of the current status and the requirements associated with each task or project. Is the task clear? What progress has been made? Is there a blocker? When will the task be completed?

Product management should also be able to understand why some tasks have dependencies on the completion of other tasks or why other tasks should be completed in tandem rather than separating them into different sprints. They should have a holistic view of what is going on in engineering at all times.

The Customer

Timely feedback about raised issues or problems within the product, and information about product features are the most important points to communicate with customers to ensure they stay long term and are happy with your product. When a customer raises a direct issue or request they should be made aware of the timeline for when their requirements are planned and fixed.

Sales/Marketing

Sales and Marketing should always have a high-level view of what engineering is prioritizing. They should be proactively informed about new features and bugfixes in order to effectively communicate with prospects and customers. One of the primary challenges between sales/marketing and engineering is finding common terminology to ensure that engineers understand the value and nuances of how each request will be utilized, and that marketers or sales teams understand the level of technical specificity required to meet the needs of a project.

The better Sales and Marketing understand your product, the better they can sell and market it in a way that it reaches the customer.

How?

Give more information than seems necessary. Focus on being proactive, and freely sharing information and receiving feedback.

What will happen?

Especially at the beginning, what information you share and how you communicate it will not be perfect. There will be a learning curve; when you share something, people ask questions. But once it starts, the blackbox around engineering will disappear and teams outside of engineering will begin to have a greater understanding that necessary information is openly shared and feedback and collaboration is welcomed. Ultimately, your product will be improved by understanding the needs of different teams in your organization, and your sprints will be more organized because requests and definitions will be made in the beginning of the process, rather than once work is already underway.