In March 2022, La Fosse hosted an exclusive panel event with two Directors of Engineering who were responsible for Trainline’s recent transformation journey. In this blog, we report back on Sean and Carl’s key insights on how to prioritise your tech and teams though a large-scale business transformation programme.

Sean Rodrigues – Director of Engineering at Trainline
Carl Anderson – VP Engineering at Ledger (previously Director of Engineering at Trainline)

James Wilson – Senior Management Consultant at La Fosse

Key event takeaways

Gaining stakeholder trust

  1. Bring your stakeholders along on the planning journey – everyone should be clued in from the start, so take time to walk all parties through each proposed stage, carving out functionality and goals.
  2. Evidence delivery – the best way to earn trust is to provide tangible results which prove to your stakeholders that your projects and programmes are financially viable. Share proof of delivery against targets regularly and in detail.
  3. Be open and transparent with each other – your stakeholders may simply be concerned with the business reaching its growth and funding goals as quickly as possible, but as a tech leader, it’s your responsibility to be firm and pragmatic – you know what’s best for your engineering teams and should always clearly convey intended timelines and expectations as well as any potential blockers.​

“We wanted to take a test and learn approach in one area at a time to show it could work, scale, grow, and handle traffic.” – Sean Rodrigues

Building international teams

  1. Cultural differences – if your transformation project involves blending international teams, it’s common to encounter mismatches in culture, especially if one team is heavily tech-focused and another is more sales or business focused. To bridge the gap, you would benefit from having someone who can empathise with both sides and fill in any gaps, such as a Community Manager.
  2. Rapid scaling – one common risk with rapid scaling is creating large teams that put pressure on management. Although it may slow down your engineer or developer hiring, prioritising manager hiring is crucial for expansion, as it significantly increases capacity when it comes to conducting more interviews for new team members.
  3. Compromising on quality – when undergoing large-scale hiring, it’s tempting to say yes anyone who is available, in order to meet targets and plug gaps. However, this could cause further problems down the line – it’s not just about finding people, it’s about finding the right people. Work closely with your hiring team to ensure all needs are being met – one way of doing this efficiently is by including a mandatory tech aptitude test in your application process to ensure quality. Even if this results in you temporarily falling behind schedule, hiring the right people is crucial to ensuring success.

“If I was going back into this position now, I would want full support on the hiring quality bar. This was so important to us. I also learnt a lot about trust around open transparent conversation around trade off and scope. There’s no way you can deliver everything you need to do, even though people might be pushing. […] Go in eyes wide open and understand that things will get cut.” – Sean Rodrigues​

  1. Offshore teams – when working with third parties, whether you choose to use just one provider or multiple, it’s highly important to maintain the same levels of quality checks and assessment as you would with any potential employee. As well as quality, another business concern around working with offshore teams is that they may not feel connected to the wider mission – however, there are ways to mitigate this. If you can, bring new hires into the office for onboarding and briefing (or host a kick-off conference call if this is not possible), and ensure managers take care to convey all shared goals so you can begin to build a blended team of internal and external engineers/developers.

“One thing I really valued is just how all together we were. Our partners were an extension of our team, and overall it was really all just one team, product and tech, not them and us. That’s what I’m looking for in my next gig – engineering is one thing, but you can’t build a product if you don’t have a great product team, as well as quality and support from the whole business. It’s really about having that full, round team to be there, drive for that market fit, and cope with all those different variables.” – Carl Anderson

Discovery and delivery

“I wanted to go so fast into delivery but, when you do that, you get into a treadmill of change where you’re not clear as to when you’re done because the goalposts keep moving further and further. So the way we got out of it was by having a strong discovery process.” – Carl Anderson​

When transforming your business, the discovery phase is just as important as the delivery itself. To help your team stay focused and secure continued buy-in, ensure you take the following three steps for each phase of the project:

  1. Explain the goal to the business
  2. Bring market experts into the room to understand different markets through user data
  3. Figure out and clearly define exactly how you will execute the work

Sean also stresses the importance of considering the following:

“If things go wrong, what is the scope we’re going to cut, and in what order?”

On the delivery side, measuring data and assessing ROI for each stage of the project is crucial for managing expectations and maintaining a good relationship with key stakeholders, both internal and external.

Financial and legal due diligence
If you’re expecting an audit and/or valuation towards the end of your project, it pays to get ahead – the added work surrounding this could become a huge source of stress and take your teams’ time away from crucial deadlines. To ensure minimal distraction during the crucial final stages, consider building the following into your processes from the beginning:

  1. Documenting all processes throughout, from hiring to testing and everything in between
  2. Staying on top of security testing throughout
  3. Implementing architectural reviews before, during, and after each stage of implementation, as well as running a monthly document review.

Ready to transform?

If you’re looking for a transformation partner with extensive experience helping companies like yours to optimise their people, processes and technology, look no further than La Fosse Digital Outcomes. Whether you’re digitising for the first time, moving to the Cloud, or just need help aligning your systems, we have multiple business transformation offerings to help you drive revenue and efficiency across your organisation. Our teams of experts work collaboratively with you to plan your transformation project and build a roadmap, before working on-site to execute the programme and upskilling your teams along the way to leave you with a lasting legacy. Head to our website or contact Lucas Howman to learn more.

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