DevOps will disrupt management styles, speed the end to ancient IT practices, and flatten away processes that don’t focus on doing more with less. But DevOps is not the only dev-led movement that will impact and reshape the High-Tech industry. So called “growth hacking” will also disrupt organizational charts by bringing development tools, methods and practitioners into roles previously filled by marketing, sales, and customer success pros. As DevOps and growth hacking become more mainstream, the inevitable result is developers ruling the world.
Both DevOps and growth hacking movements are driven by an evidence based, analytical, “no BS” point of view. Both aim to eliminate excess management structures, long feedback loops, and wasteful processes. Despite their similarities and shared ideology, it is not likely that, as a DevOps person, you are familiar with growth hacking.
What is Growth Hacking?
When you last were looking for a product or service, did you pick up the phone and reach out to a few sales teams? You might have spent some time on DevOps.com and LeanStack.io doing reseach. If you were after something cloud-based, chances are that you set yourself up with a trial and kicked the tires first. By the time you were done, you pretty much knew if you were going to buy or not.
You are savvy. And the world of tech buyers is only getting savvier. This is in-part because of the awesome focus on UX, but also because the world is being trained on Apps and freemium enterprise tech.
Because of this new way of buying, vendors must market and sell differently. They need to build reputation and good will with the market. Their product must guide without getting too aggressive, and make prospect decisions – payment being just one such choice – seem less mandated and more…Mario.
So marketing teams are forced to fill the top of their funnel with great SEO, and SEM. And they must optimize the experience for those in the funnel with UX – great product features, excellent content, and engaging paths to success.
So Product Marketers and CMOs are looking at a new role called growth hacker, who given the name, is charged with “hacking” together the product with the market. They analyze user behavior. They test buying decision paths. And they may even prevent churn. This role is extremely analytical, has a great relationship with product and is always optimizing all the things that can improve conversion, and retain customers.
My Movement from another Mother
Lets first look at how they are similar. First both are driven by technical people. I’m going to be slightly loose with the term technical. I’m referring to individuals who are doers. These people are willing to get in the weeds and get out to make evidence based recommendations. To meet this high bar, the “hacker” must be deliberate, technical, and have a deep understanding of the product they represent. While growth hacking is very often spearheaded by a developer, it really belongs to marketing.
Both movements are rooted in software startups. One reason for this is that this is where the tooling fits the best. In the case of growth hacking, the daily work is the design and deployment of thousands of software pulleys and levers, all built to optimize user experience. And only in cloud-based software is it relatively easy to collect robust data sets, change a product overnight, and repeat. Along with the tooling, there is, of course, startup culture, where it is all about testing and “changing the world”. Although, culture is the first thing to change in enterprises where the movements sink in.
Next, both are “lean”. To be effective the operatives require a lot of autonomy. They need to be able to make decisions on their own, act on them quickly, and iterate repeatedly. This often means light management structures that empowered doers.
And finally, they require talent. I hate the titles “Ninja”, and “Rockstar”, because this is just a feeble attempt to appease the nerdy found in modern tech circles. However, the individuals who fill the roles in DevOps and Growth Hacking are unique. They have to have a good business sense, understand the goals of the company, able to jump into tasks quickly, learn, and then build techniques. They are hard to find, but one such person replaces 5 in traditional business.
Growth Hacking … Never Heard of it
Now how are they different? They serve VERY different goals. DevOps is about optimizing development operations; growth hacking is about optimizing user retention and conversion. Growth hacking is threatening traditional marketing approaches; DevOps threatens traditional IT and Development practices.
They are barely connected today, but I think this will be short lived. I believe that more and more organizations will realize that the two share a culture and can benefit from each other – sharing methods and tools. In a previous post I talked about how monitoring tools can be used to optimize deployment pipelines, this is the first place the two roles collide, as monitoring is the foundation of growth hacking. I also believe that growth hacking should be a marketing or product function, as this is where the shared objective lies. But they should be close to the DevOps team, since there are benefits to doing so.
Both of these movements focus on failing fast, iterating fast, and doing less with more. And when software begins to “eat the world”, the economy will not know what hit it. There are some major long-term benefits, but also some costs.
The doers are only going to become pricier. This is not news; we already know that extremely talented high-tech workers are very well paid and treated like movie stars. The interesting thing is their salaries will far exceed middle management, but they will not be interested in management at all, they are all about execution. This is refreshing.
The doers with some practicality or business sense will start to replace bloated management structures. With this new model of employer executers, the need for high-paid executive teams will not go away, but it will be reduced. And the executives will be expected to be producers too, because these movie stars will not stick around for annoying micro-managing bosses, and they wont need too.
Organizations will shrink. Empowered hybrid doers can build something great with teams that are one-third the size of what was required before. The downside to this is the market may be flooded with highly skilled people looking for work.
Just for the cool kids
When you get to the heart of these movements there is a lot of resistance. Perhaps the whole “ninja” and “rockstar” titles scare off the rest of the “mature” business world from benefiting from some awesome approaches to people, process, and product.
However if you look just at organizational structure, and the approaches that both DevOps and growth hacking demonstrate, there is no reason that the vast majority of what they accomplish cannot be introduced into more traditional businesses.
The fastest and easiest way to do so is to build “startups” within large enterprises. They can operate under these new principles, but still benefit the larger organization. And if the organization were to support many of these types of units, then the entire enterprise can maintain oversight and benefit from the accelerated pace and cost savings that come from growth hacking and DevOps.
The age of the developer is upon us. And the hybrid developer leads it: IT/Dev, Marketing/Dev, and Product/Dev are going to change not just the modern startup, but all enterprises producing web and mobile applications.