In a knowledge-based economy, human capital is the greatest resource that any organization owns. So, it becomes imperative to scaleup those resources not only in terms of quantity but quality as well. For tech-driven organizations, this means upskilling their workforce concerning standard procedures and best practices resulting in improved efficiency and quality of deliverables.
Improving quality is always a collaborative effort in a team environment. A brilliant engineer cannot singlehandedly deliver working alongside a mediocre team. Excellence should always be a constant pursuit embedded into a team’s culture where each member stands out as an active participant. This can be achieved by following the current industry trends, competitor behavior analysis, and insights from customer feedback. Additionally, there should be enough transparency for knowledge sharing across individuals and teams through a central repository accessible to all stakeholders.
Identifying the Need
Often different teams work as independent silos and there is lack of communication on how they pick development stacks, integrate third-party tools, and automate deployment pipelines. This leads to nonuniformity across teams wherein best practices lay hidden as best kept secrets within a team. It proves to be detrimental in process standardization and an opportunity for uniform and inclusive growth. A lot of effort goes in repetitive brainstorming, planning and decisioning that could easily be avoided by referring to case studies based on similar past events.
This is typical across most organizations and we at IMC Tech had a similar story until a few years back. Most of the innovation and best practices were ad hoc in nature and stayed confined within the vicinity of respective teams. Sooner we observed the need to construct a central regulatory authority that would not only address these issues but also help us evolve and transform technologically in an ever-changing spectrum, and hence the center of excellence (COE) team was born with a vision to create a global technological framework at InMobi.
How it Works?
The COE acts as a governing council that encompasses the entire tech ecosystem within the organization. The role of the COE is to act as a facilitator when it comes to defining processes and quality metrics, adapting best practices, driving innovation, learning and development, and tech recommendations.
The COE comprises a team of highly efficient seasoned engineers with decades of industry experience under their belt. They also feature an architecture council represented by various stakeholders from all product and platform engineering teams. This conglomeration of senior engineers and architects under one umbrella helps render mentorship and advisory services to all engineering needs within the organization.
The COE team has been actively endorsing tech innovation among peer groups. Right from the ideation stage individuals and teams are encouraged to undergo a proof-of-concept and facilitate them with all the required resources. Any outcome is thoroughly reviewed by the council and feedback is provided concerning further roadmap like room for improvements, approvals for implementation on a larger scale, or dumping the idea altogether.
Leveraging Operational Excellence
In its pursuit of excellence, the COE is the flagbearer of operational efficiency and leverages quality of deliverables. This is achieved by standardizing end-to-end software development lifecycle processes and adapting best practices in designs, code structures, test planning, optimizing CI/CD pipelines, and always automating wherever possible.
Defining and Monitoring Success
Another focus area is defining success metrics and its execution. Finding the root cause that impacts productivity and getting the right set of tools and platforms, processes and systems in place. This way the COE plays a critical role in benchmarking technological standards across the organization. The planned adaption of Prometheus for metrics collection and sending alerts is one such activity.
Finding Impactful Solutions
The COE also plays a key role in identifying critical problems and discovering impactful solutions, in addition to finetuning the existing ones. A lot of it is reflected in the software choices we make.
A few recent projects of significant importance are migration to Azure Kubernetes, container optimization, and structuring the application logs to fetch insightful data.
Evangelizing Operating Principles
There are 10 core operating principles (OPs) that define the cultural DNA of IMC Tech, and the COE plays a vital role in evangelizing each of them. The projects undertaken by the COE team are seamlessly aligned to these OPs that ensures that the organization is heading towards the right direction at the right pace.
Optimizing Deployment Pipelines
Keeping in line with the principles, the COE team has been overseeing and observing the deployment pipelines being used by various engineering teams and is in relentless pursuit to optimize them in a cost effective and efficient manner. A process is already underway to automate the entire pipeline in build, deploy and release to production with no manual intervention.
Building Software Platforms
One of our key guiding principles is choosing a platform over solution. We do not just pause on finding a solution. Rather we analyze solutions for specific use cases and derive a generic template that could be used across a broader scope. This is achieved by identifying similar architectural themes and recurring patterns. Once a trade off on the cost-benefit analysis is established, a relevant platform is proposed to transform the existing solutions. The COE leads our way in proposing and creating the right platforms for the greater needs of the organization.
Enhancing Learning and Development
Learning and development is a key ingredient for sustained growth of organizational manpower. The COE proactively participates in identifying the technological needs of the organization regularly and inculcate those requirements in our training and hiring processes.
Formulating Tech Strategy
A core function of the COE is to formulate an annual tech strategy on a year-on-year basis that highlights the technological direction where the organization is heading towards. The purpose is to identify the guiding principles and tenets that will help us evaluate where we stand from an organizational standpoint and the areas we need to improve upon.
The COE is a key contributor in identification and recommendation of third-party tools and external vendors for tech specific requirements. The COE analyses the rationale behind picking a readily available tool over indigenous development and recommends the most appropriate choice. The COE also works closely with information security and privacy committee and provides advisory on central audits, privacy upgrades and security mandates.