Cloud & Engineering

Liz Douglass

I don't think I have the tech capability that I need. What do I do?

Posted by Liz Douglass on 06 July 2021

Modern Engineering, Capability

I can’t tell you how often I’ve spoken with CIOs and CTOs who say they have a gap in their team’s capability, but can’t quite identify what that gap is or how big it is. They just know they need a fresh perspective to solve old problems.

If any of these scenarios sound familiar, then you may be in a similar situation:

  • Conversations with your engineering teams continually refer to historical failures to introduce new technology or practices. ‘Remember that time in 2011 when we tried to do automated testing and it didn’t work?’ This may sound extreme, but if you have a team that hasn’t been able to implement a mainstream engineering practice, then it’s worth looking at it from a different angle.
  • A team can’t see the path to an improved state. If a team has given up on finding new or better ways to do things, then you need a fresh perspective. Here’s an example: I inherited a team at a time of enormous growth. The team had learned to live with the application’s instability and there was a general acceptance that more growth equalled more instability. I disagreed and hand-picked a ‘SWAT’ team of consultants that was able to deliver incremental improvements and create a genuinely stable application.
  • A team isn’t happy with its vendors. There’s often a natural tension between client and consultant perspectives, but if your team is constantly at loggerheads with a supplier then it’s worth investigating. A regular dialogue and good governance or processes are really important to forming a healthy client/supplier relationship.
  • Significant dependence on key individuals. I’ve heard of projects paying for the garden maintenance for team members, so they had the capacity to work on the weekend. I’ve also heard of team members being helicoptered to work from holiday to resolve an incident. This is not sustainable for the individuals, however heroic it sounds. Resource shortfalls or a lack of knowledge are not the signs of a healthy or functioning team.


These situations are all solvable and this is where Modern Systems Engineering (MSE) really shines.


Our approach is to have conversations to understand the organisation and the challenges tech leaders are facing. Sometimes we’ll meet with the team to get their perspective as well.

Approach arrows


Every engagement is different, ranging from very broad to quite specific efforts. But there are three main types of engagements in general:


Types of engagement

  1. A high-level review across the whole technology function. This would cover priority projects and key teams and functions, such as architecture, service delivery or the PMO.
  2. Focussed reviews across multiple teams to understand specific pain points, such as poor end-user performance or long lead times for change.
  3. A deep dive into a customer-facing product and the ecosystem of applications that deliver it.


This approach typically examines the following areas:

  • The path to production, including testing and deployment
  • The application architecture
  • Integrations with other applications
  • Runtime environment(s)
  • Observable behaviour, including monitoring

Each engagement is typically time-boxed to between four and 12 weeks and could involve up to eight consultants. The process will rely heavily on you and your team, and it’s useful to prepare the team to work with us.


The activities we’ll conduct during an engagement include:

  • Facilitating workshops
  • Interviewing the main stakeholder(s) and their teams
  • Reviewing documentation, such as architecture
  • Analysing the performance of software delivery processes and system health

We take a flexible approach to these engagements but we have several supporting frameworks, tools and assessment models.


Outcome graph-1


You can expect two outcomes:

  1. Weekly playbacks, including progress updates.
  2. Prioritised recommendations that are specific to your organisation, systems, and team, including a roadmap for their implementation that will chart a path to improving your team’s capability.

The outputs reveal opportunities to improve practices, upskill teams and introduce contemporary engineering approaches. We can help technology leaders solve challenges that seem ambiguous.


Our approach is unique and effective. Learn how Modern Systems Engineering can help companies like yours. Get in touch now.



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