Ilmari Kontulainen is the CEO of code hosting and collaboration platform Deveo, a lean thinker and continuous improvement fanatic. During spare time Ilmari organizes Agile Finland's coaching circles at Helsinki, reads and does endurance sports. We recently talked to Ilmari about his experience as a developer. Here's what he shared:
You describe yourself as a "lean thinker." Can you talk a little bit about that? How do you approach your work?
One of the five Deveo core values is simplicity. I'm following the same simplicity approach in my daily work, constantly trying to simplify decision making and daily routines. At a team level we are utilizing lean startup methodologies, such as making assumptions and then validating them with experiments. In addition, we use more traditional lean methodologies, such as the Kanban board and eliminating waste. I apply various sorts of mapping techniques and systems thinking in problem solving and decision making in order to come up with more meaningful solutions and think the big picture.
The mission behind Deveo is to "make software development seamless." What inspired this mission?
We have all been there, doing work with enterprise tools that have a lot of complexity, boring UIs and tediously steep learning curves. The company from which Deveo initially spin off had been developing proprietary self-service portals for code management to some of the biggest companies in the world. After being involved in three different similar products, we decided it's time to bake our own, and allow others outside the selected few customers to use it. Getting stuff done, making the development seamless is the mission at Deveo.
What are the common challenges and/or pain points facing developers when building enterprise software?
In addition to the basic requirements for enterprise software, such as audit logs, different deployment options, high-availibility and so on, Enterprise software tends to get a lot of quirky special requirements from customers. The pain points are typically more related to how to solve the problems customers have in a more generic way in addition to knowing when to say no to a feature request from a customer.
What are the common culprits of inefficiency and fragmentation in enterprise software?
Many companies lack centralized self-service platforms for accomplishing various tasks. Issue tracking, Documentation, Code hosting to name a few. Companies are waking up to this, however, and starting to consolidate the various tools scattered across the organization. We have noticed that if the centralized IT organization is unable to provide the tools the development organization needs, they will find a tool for the problem themselves. This creates an effect called Shadow IT, which in term creates fragmentation and later on inefficiency as the tools require maintenance and management.
How can organizations combat these problems? What can create more efficiency and easier interface?
The most important thing is to make sure that the tools that an organization provides can be provided in a self-service manner. This ensures that the tools can be taken into use without additional assistance or governance. This also sets a requirement for choosing tools that are simple to use and easy to learn.
Why do you strive for simplicity in your solutions? How difficult is it to make a simple solution?
Striving for simplicity at Deveo is all about keeping our core values at heart. We have started to organize sessions where we share examples and occasions when people were especially following the values. What helps us during planning and development is the minimum viable product mindset and thinking about impacts and problems rather than feature lists. There are naturally check-box features that are required from an enterprise software and those should be distinguished from the rest.
What trends or innovations in software development are you most excited about or interested in today? Why?
Like probably every other innovative tech company, we are doing stuff with containers. Cloud infrastructure is another thing that's interesting. We see that more and more companies start putting their data to the cloud in one way or another. Different ways to turn those aforementioned innovations into good use are in my interest.
What do you think is the future for how developers work together to build enterprise software?
Deveo is a fully remote company with employees from four countries. I personally believe that more and more tech companies start doing remote work either partially or fully. Once the barriers of location are broken, and they already have been, a lot of interesting companies will emerge.
Looking for more thoughts on today's IT world? Check out Digital IT and Transformation: A Global View of Trends and Requirement.