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Does a good engineering culture matter?

Posted by Hemant Puthli on December 15, 2012

Answer by Hemant Puthli:

Culture matters. Period.

For a software engineering company, a "good" engineering culture definitely matters, and is worth investing in: it needs to be carefully cultivated and nurtured.

But what is a "good" engineering culture? That's the nub of the issue, IMO. If the engineering culture is so dominant as to overwhelm all other priorities (e.g., customer focus and responsiveness, or financial stability or employee welfare), then I would not qualify it as a "good" engineering culture.

Balance is key. Resources are always scarce, competition is always tough and good talent is always hard to find and keep. Knowing where the trade-offs are and allowing that knowledge to inform business decisions is what distinguishes a successful software engineering company from a wannabe or a might-have-been or an also-ran.

Generally speaking, companies may find that the path to eminence and prosperity is broadly determined by three key criteria: (1) Customer intimacy (2) Product/ Service excellence (3) Operational efficiency. Most companies seek to balance all three, but a few exceptional companies assign highly differential weights (i.e. prioritize one of these highly over the other two) and also win.

The bottom line is that a good engineering culture is 'necessary but not sufficient'. A sound business strategy (backed-up by an ability to execute) should aim to bring in all the other factors needed to succeed, whatever they may be (too vast a topic to delve into here – I've already highlighted a few such critical factors above).

Hope this helps.

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