Salesforce CIO Ross Meyercord on the Future of Coding (and How IT is Like a Therapist)
OREANDA-NEWS. September 07, 2016. I joined Salesforce as CIO four years ago after a 22-year career in consulting, and with my long history in technology, I can confidently say that we’re living in one of the most exciting times for developers. It seems like every year we’re creeping closer and closer towards a codeless future as technology evolves to favor low-code and no-code development. But sophisticated developers needn’t fear for their careers — there’s room for everyone on the coding continuum. Developers who want to succeed in IT today need to be adept at coding in a variety of languages, but also speak the language of empathy for the most optimal IT and stakeholder relationships.
As I look toward the future of the low-code and no-code era of development, I’m excited by the possibilities. Over time, as programming languages have become more diverse and syntax is closer to English, the computer science field has opened up to others besides just the classically-trained. Coding is now a continuum: Anyone can really be a coder, and you can solve so many problems with minimal or no code. There will always be a market for sophisticated developers — not only are they the ones writing the tools that make low-code and no-code app design possible, but there will always be more sophisticated problems that require deep programming expertise to solve.
If you think of it like a pyramid, as no-code and low-code development capabilities expand, we’re adding more layers of app-builders and designers at the bottom of the pyramid, but there is still a need for programmers at every level.That’s part of what makes working at Salesforce so exciting. Our platform has capabilities that the most technically advanced programmers can thrive in, as well as no-code capabilities for the least technical individuals. We allow for a wide variety of people along the continuum of code to succeed.
But the more things change, the more they stay the same. The IT department has long been tasked with providing infrastructure, boosting functionality, and managing governance for an organization — no small task, no matter how big a team or how small a company.
When your entire business is your stakeholders, as is the case with the IT department, setting priorities and managing expectations are an absolutely crucial component of being an effective team.
At Salesforce, our V2MOM (learn more about it here) is an amazing tool we use to set goals and priorities for the year, as well as identify potential obstacles, and, of course, how we will measure success. As the year moves forward, I inevitably come up against competing priorities — sometimes I’ve got to choose between A and B. That’s when you go back to the V2MOM and see what we all agreed upon to be the ordered priorities for the year. For example, as trust is our number one value, and project A has to do with boosting trust within the organization and option B doesn’t, I’m going to choose to prioritize option A. Not only does an agreed-upon V2MOM set the tone for the year, it minimizes conflict along the way.
In addition to the V2MOM, every month I make a “CIO Top 10 List.” There are hundreds of things going on in the IT department at any given moment, but each month I take the time to identify our top ten priorities, and that helps the rest of the team prioritize as well because it’s coming from the top down.
Once the prioritization is in place, communicating and managing expectations is the next key part of running a successful IT department. When a stakeholder comes to you with a request or a complaint, you must take the time to truly listen and understand what their needs are. The particular stakeholder often understands that their painpoint isn’t going to get prioritized right away, but they just want to be heard — like a therapist, in a way. I take the time to sit down with them and listen to their problem, demonstrate empathy, and explain where I’m coming from — referring back to our V2MOM and the CIO Top 10 List — for why IT will (or won’t!) be able to prioritize their need at this time. Transparency and empathy makes an enormous difference.