Nov 24, 2022

Solving 5 challenges tech leaders face in fast-growing companies

Is your company experiencing growing pains? It happens. Tech leaders in fast-scaling companies encounter some very specific challenges. Read more to find out.

Mikko Röntynen, Director of Product Marketing

Mikko Röntynen

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Director of Product Marketing

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Generating more revenue, bringing in more customers, and growing fast are the key accomplishments of a successful company. But those accomplishments also represent a ton of challenges to you and your teams. Challenges like the extra pressure to make sure the technology meets the increasing needs of an ever-growing pool of customers and similarly expanding internal teams.

Being in charge of developing that technology, it's up to the tech leaders (the CTO, CIO, Head of Engineering) to be at the top of their game and address these growing pains.

In this blog post, we’ll look at:

Keeping your valuable developers happy

A happy developer is a productive developer. An unhappy developer is getting ready to move on. When your company is under pressure to grow fast, it also adds pressure to the developers - to deliver applications that much faster, while simultaneously taking care of the work that comes with scaling up.

That’s right - your developers want to be productive, but they can be held back by legacy systems or admin chores like database maintenance, and those tasks only become more consuming as your company grows. Not to mention all the confusion of changes in teams and processes that can also happen. And just like that, your developers are no longer happy - and you know good developers are hard to find.

Some solutions a tech leader might consider

  • Focusing on developer experience to set your company apart from the rest and to attract and retain talent; a workplace where developers are allowed to thrive, and do the work they love, is a tempting prospect
  • Automating away the mundane chores that waste your devs’ skills, so they can focus on developing and delivering applications that bring your company competitive advantages, embracing managed services to enable automation
  • Investing in easy-to-use self-service infrastructure tooling
  • Exploring modern open source technologies

Ensuring high development productivity and fast time-to-market for your products

Sustaining a growing company in good health means bringing in more customers. And that means pressure: pressure to keep current customers happy, and new customers impressed. This is a very closely intertwined concept with the previous one about keeping your developers and engineers happy and productive—it’s very important to keep all of these critical contributors happy at every step.

The ability to continuously develop your product to ensure it delights the customer is critical to customer satisfaction and scalable growth. Whether it’s adding new and useful features, improving your user experience, or just getting your product on shelves a step ahead of the competition—all of these developments pose challenges of their own.

The headaches (and their remedies)

In a competitive field, getting your offering out there in front of customers (and ahead of your competition) is critical. You don’t want to be the tech company with the product-in-development that customers get tired of waiting for, because we all know what happens then.

With this challenge in mind, it’s vital to maximize development velocity by enabling your developers to focus on actual development, not on infrastructure management. Adopt product thinking for internal technical platforms. This will serve the dual purpose of keeping the devs happy, and also providing enhancements to your deliverables like reliability and security—things that keep the customer on board.

If you foster a professional culture where team members feel safe to experiment and are encouraged to innovate, your productivity and delivery headaches will dissipate. If you enable collaboration and communication and eliminate inefficient silo structures in your business areas, efficiency is your reward.

Scaling up your processes and workflows

Fast growth means your company might need to:

  • Hire more engineers to build more applications
  • Build new teams to support new business areas
  • Acquire more compute and storage capacity to handle increased load and data volumes

As a tech leader you’ll need to look at logics and processes to help your new and growing teams work together, and consider new tools to manage all the additional people and data. It can very rapidly turn into an unmanageable nightmare.

You might consider…

  • Setting aside time to review your existing processes and workflows with key stakeholders, and evaluating if those practices still support a new team structure with a bigger tech stack - if not, time to change!
  • Things change fast in fast growing companies, so keep an eye on processes and new bottlenecks that may appear - observability is the key
  • Automating the tasks related to maintaining your data infrastructure - when it comes to scaling, more automation = less engineering time needed for maintenance tasks, and more time for application development

Growing your tech stack and data infra

As your company grows, you may find that the tech stack and data infrastructure setup you have today no longer meets your needs. You wouldn't want to spend time (and energy) every year, or even every few months, looking for a new tool from a new provider to keep the old cogs turning. And platform and architecture changes are lengthy and costly projects - that don’t create visible customer value.

Planning, planning, planning

Try to plan ahead as much as possible. How does your tech setup support your business needs today, and how well is it likely to support your business growth projection for the next year - or more?

Let’s say you need to change from batch to real time data streaming now, but maybe next year you’ll need to add a real time data processing layer on top of it as well. These are the sorts of things you need to consider. But how can you know this? And how do you prepare for it?

  • Getting insights from experts in the field is always a good idea! Their expertise and experiences are a valuable and freely-available resource, just waiting for you to apply them to your situation. In Aiven’s case, we’re thoroughly qualified when it comes to open source data infrastructure, as we’ve worked with thousands of fast growing companies. Planning ahead and investing in a scalable infrastructure is critical.

  • You also need to prevent costs from skyrocketing as your scale increases. Pay close attention to those serverless, usage-based pricing models. They may provide lucrative pricing for low-usage scenarios, but turn out to be radically expensive in other scenarios. Their costs are often very hard to predict, too.

  • Fast growth often comes with a huge increase in your data volumes, and the cost to store and process that data can increase exponentially. You want to ensure your profitability, without driving customers away with your bills.

  • Avoid vendor lock-in. You want to be able to easily onboard new tools from new suppliers that meet your future needs, and it makes no sense to keep on paying for tools that don't serve your business anymore just because you’re tied up in a long contractual notice period.

  • Last but not least, integrations are essential to ease of scalability. Whenever you go looking for a new addition to your tech stack, take a little extra time to research how easy it is to integrate that tool into your existing setup.

Cybersecurity and privacy concerns

As your company scales up, the attention spent on cybersecurity and data privacy can increase exponentially (just like your storage and processing costs, and for basically the same reason). More growth means more data, new systems to handle that data, new suppliers, new people … all these new moving parts, and checking their compliance to cybersecurity and data privacy is an easy step to overlook.

And hackers and other nefarious individuals are always on the lookout for vulnerabilities, and the opportunity to breach your security infrastructure.

Tech leader solutions to the data security challenge

  • Security-by-design, not as an afterthought
    Security-by-design is a business philosophy in which security is considered and built into the system at every layer, starting with a robust architecture design. This means that before you add any new tool or new structure to your existing system, think about all the potential areas that are vulnerable to hackers. List the people who’ll handle the data, and make sure they have the necessary training.
  • A holistic view of security
    And not only in your own approach to your company’s data. You should expect the same of your employees, subcontractors, partners, and managed service providers.
  • The extra mile
    Compliance certifications are a good starting point, but they don’t guarantee security. There are a lot of other factors to consider. Like, a lot a lot. You might also want to think about:
    • Performing security awareness campaigns or employee education courses
    • Conducting regular security testing; hire white-hat hackers to try to breach your system and identify your vulnerabilities
    • Practicing security incident response processes—they’re like fire drills, but for security

Is this you? How can managed data help?

We’ve seen a lot of pain points here, and a whole lot of suggestions about what you as a tech leader can do to remove those obstacles for your fast-growing company. Your time is limited and when possible, it’s important to delegate actions so you can focus on the things that drive your business forward.

The good news is, by taking a managed data platform into use you can outsource a lot of these vital steps. Want to know how a managed data platform like Aiven can ease your growing pains and fuel your company?

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So... looking for a managed data platform?

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Head to Aiven Console to sign up for a free trial!

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