The rise of the Business Engineer
The IT skill shortage is real, and the demand for custom software has never been higher. Organizations who are innovating, digitally transforming, and differentiating themselves through custom software soon find that there are simply not enough good developers to go around. The result is increasing development backlogs, and innovation projects being stalled due to insufficient available talent.
However, software development tools and practices are evolving. To help close the gap between demand and delivery, organizations are turning to modern platforms for evolutionary and rapid application development. These “low-code” platforms make application development faster and easier through abstraction of underlying technical implementation. Rather than traditional coding, users of these platforms take advantage of visual modelling of applications – speeding up the development and delivery process significantly.
Meet the Business Engineer
But easier and faster development is by itself not enough to solve the skill shortage. The real momentum is gained by allowing non-traditional developers to participate in the development process. Low-code platforms have democratized the development process by bringing a new role to the table: the Business Engineer.
So who is the Business Engineer?
The term itself provides some clues: We define a Business Engineer as a person with business- or domain expertise combined with engineering competencies. The Business Engineer is not necessarily educated within computer science or programming, but has a sound understanding of logic, data modelling and systematization. They are eager to participate in application development, but do not have the required experience with programming languages, code patterns, and system architecture to participate in a traditional coding project.
By empowering these Business Engineers with the right tools, you can unleash talent within or outside your organization to enable innovation and reduce backlogs. Combined with the capabilities within your existing IT organization, a functioning team of Business Engineers can provide a significant competitive advantage in terms of producing innovative and differentiating solutions. This also allows your existing coders to focus on the tasks they need to do, rather than being guilted by the ever-increasing backlogs and new solution requests.
How to spot a Business Engineer?
To help you along with finding the Business Engineer candidates in your organizations, we have gathered some traits that we believe are common amongst them.
Most successful Business Engineers hold one or more of the following traits:
1) They focus on the business outcomes of technology
Business Engineers love technology, but not for the technology itself. Rather they see how business problems and customer needs that can be solved by applying the right technical solution. They love simple solutions for complex challenges, and seek to automate mundane, time-intensive and costly processes. They empathize with end-users and have often been end-users themselves. As a result, they will love to sit closely with the end-users as they develop functionality in order to ensure that the solution meets their requirements.
2) They love to experiment with technology
Before they find themselves in a role as a “Business Engineer”, they try to solve their problems with other technologies that they master. This can be Excel, Access, Lotus Notes, business intelligence tools, or other “citizen developer” friendly tools. They may also have experimented with “no-code” tools but found that these are not powerful enough to solve real business problems. They may build such solutions for themselves, for their teams, and even on their spare time – just to challenge themselves and experiment with new technology.
3) They are creative
Business Engineers love the idea of building something better. Rather than being satisfied with status quo, they want to improve the efficiency and results in their business. When they believe that there are better ways to solve a problem, they will be persistent to find a solution. As long as they don’t have the right tools to unleash this creativity, they may even be seen as discontent and complaining due to their quest for improval.
4) They have deep domain knowledge
We experience that people who have deep understanding of a domain are also more aware of how to improve that domain. This domain may be any specific topic, profession, or activity – e.g. an industry, a business function/role, a category of systems, or a business process. For instance, a technically savvy person with backgrounds in Finance may be the right Business Engineer to build a solution for core banking. By providing these people with visual tools to build software, they are more likely to produce high quality solutions for that domain than a person who “translates” a requirement specification for an unfamiliar domain.
5) They may have a background in Computer Science, but don’t “love code”
This kind of Business Engineer, “the developer who doesn’t enjoy coding”, is not as rare as you may think. While a large portion of Computer Science students enjoy the art of coding, many find that they don’t really enjoy coding or learning every new language that becomes fashionable. However, they do love the creative and problem-solving part of Computer Science, and they understand the core principles of software development and data modeling. Instead of focusing on language syntax and code patterns, these developers can be empowered by visual “problem solving” tools through low-code. These “technical Business Engineers” are often amazingly productive when provided with the right low-code platform, and can supplement the less technical Business Engineers with their understanding of software logic, data modelling, UX principles, and so on.
But what can my team of Business Engineers build?
So, let’s say you have assembled a dream-team of Business Engineers, eager to take on any task you throw at them. What can they actually build with the fresh, new low-code platform you have provided them with?
The answer is: it depends on the platform you choose! One of the most important aspects you must consider when evaluating low-code platforms is “who will be in my team of Business Engineers and what do I expect them to build?”.
Some low-code platforms require coding in addition to visual development, which will throw off the non-coders and potentially demoralize the “I-don’t-love-code”-ers. These platforms may be a good “turbo charger” for existing development teams (love-code teams), but they don’t really enable the untapped value of Business Engineers.
Other low-code platforms are better suited for the Business Engineers, as they are purely based on visual and model-driven development. These platforms are advanced enough to challenge the “I-don’t-love-code”-ers, yet still easy enough to learn for the less technical Business Engineers. Be aware that there are significant differences within this category as well, as only a handful of platforms are powerful enough to deliver advanced or core business applications.
It is also important that you don’t aim too low, and end up with a no-code platform designed for citizen developers. Business Engineers are not citizen developers, and without enough expressiveness in their low-code platform, they will soon be demoralized.
Given the right platform, there are almost no limits to what your team of Business Engineers can develop. From core fund-management applications, to dynamic case management and digital operations platforms – the sky is the limit. For more examples of what has been built with our low-code platform Genus – see our case studies.