Building a world-class platform for software engineers

Software engineers and their ability to deliver are critical to a business’ success. They help organizations keep pace with innovation and respond to disruptive forces. Even companies in industries that are not traditionally considered tech, such as agriculture or financial services, recognize the need for software engineers and are actively seeking to hire talented individuals.

Software engineers are responsible for an ever-growing list of demands through the software development cycle. Their working environment is more complex due to proliferation of complex multicloud infrastructure, tooling, and applications. While they command good salaries and professional esteem, the job takes its toll. Additionally, ever-evolving cyber threats and the constant need to stay ahead in terms of continual scanning and early detection add to the complexity.

A 2021 poll conducted by Haystack Analytics found 83% of developers were suffering burnout, driven by increasing demands on their time and inefficient processes. A 2022 survey by LaunchDarkly showed continued burn-out and retention challenges for software engineers, with cumbersome processes a key frustration. Challenges are more acute in organizations saddled with technical debt, heritage applications, and legacy infrastructure.

“The engineer’s job has become extremely hard, but with one of the largest tech footprints and investments, JPMorgan Chase has a unique opportunity and responsibility to lead the industry in a paradigm shift toward minimizing the cognitive load for engineers and multiplying their productivity to accelerate the value we deliver to our customers and clients,” says Sandhya Sridharan, global head of Engineering Platforms and Experience at JPMorgan Chase.

Building an intuitive interface

As part of its modernization journey, JPMorgan Chase is building in a highly integrated self-service engineer platform designed to empower and enable the company’s 43,000+ person engineering community, with the goal of amplifying experience, engagement, and productivity.

The firm’s approach is driven by four strategic imperatives. First is a unified interface. This is a personalized, data-driven experience that gives engineers ownership and has a self-service dynamic, which is a change from business-as-usual. “An engineer platform must simplify an engineer’s day-to-day tasks by providing the right level of contextual abstraction along with the appropriate tooling and resources,” explains Sridharan. “This needs to happen within the context of an integrated development environment where engineers spend most of their time providing complete visualization of their build and deployment pipelines.”

The second imperative is to be cloud focused. The public cloud offers scalability, which improves speed, agility, and cost. The majority of software developer tooling is primarily available in, and built for, public cloud platforms, which can be more reliable and resilient than on-premise infrastructures. Engineers can quickly take advantage of best-of-breed capabilities, including observability tools, while adopting strategies like canary deployment (releasing first to a small subset of users) that help accelerate time to market. “If we were on-premises, we would not have the flexibility for elastic scale and it wouldn’t be cost effective,” notes Sridharan.

The third imperative is to be data-driven, which is core to an industry as complex and fast-moving as financial services. The platform equips engineers with the right data, insights, and recommendations to enable real-time detection and resolution, and to track progress. It also provides telemetry, which can help personalize the engineer experience to individual needs. “Data will power everything we do and inform our decision making as we continue to evolve and improve the platform to best support the needs of our engineers,” Sridharan elaborates.

This platform also offers a more robust system for governance and security. Software failures are inevitable, but what matters is whether a platform provides the capability to quickly detect failures and recover. JPMorgan Chase’s platform includes observability tooling that can detect problems and auto-remediate or rollback the change that caused it, reducing outage time for end users. Observability and automation are especially important in heavily regulated sectors, like finance, in terms of audit evidence. “We need to have full traceability of every transaction and changes that go into production,” notes Sridharan. “This not only equips our engineers with detailed insights and trends, but it also saves them several days and weeks of effort anytime we are audited, as the platform provides a full audit report with the click of a button.”

Engineer experience and competing for talent

JPMorgan Chase’s upgrade of its engineering platform improves productivity, efficiency, and security. Just as important is helping the company compete for engineering talent by offering a vastly more efficient working environment than software engineers might find elsewhere. The firm’s goal is to be the most attractive engineering destination, and given the consistent competition for good talent, it’s more important than ever to offer engineers a world-class working environment with minimal friction. “Engineering excellence and a highly intuitive platform are critical for us to not only retain our top talent, but also continue to attract the best talent in the industry,” says Sridharan.

By abstracting both the controls and the infrastructure complexities, JPMorgan Chase’s platform allows engineers to focus on high-value productivity, rather than being mired in coordination or laborious processes. It abstracts controls by automatically factoring in the relevant workflows and processes, such as differing regulatory environments, which the platform incorporates through its policy and rules engine. This allows engineers to focus on what they do best: build high value applications which are scalable, robust, and resilient.

As many companies move to multicloud or hybrid cloud environments, some workloads are best conducted via one cloud hyperscaler platform or another. However, choosing which one shouldn’t tax an engineer’s time. The platform directs workflows into the right infrastructure based on factors like regulation and capacity. Abstracting all of this complexity, while providing context where needed, means developers can focus on building the right application to generate customer value. 

“To make JPMorgan Chase the most attractive engineering destination, we need to be able to not only remove friction every step of the way, but we need to build a solid foundation that evolves and simplifies the day-to-day life of a software engineer, which will help accelerate our business outcomes,” concludes Sridharan.

This article is for informational purposes only and it is not intended as legal, tax, financial, investment, accounting or regulatory advice. Opinions expressed herein are the personal views of the individual(s) and do not represent the views of JPMorgan Chase & Co. The accuracy of any statements, linked resources, reported findings or quotations are not the responsibility of JPMorgan Chase & Co.

This content was produced by Insights, the custom content arm of MIT Technology Review. It was not written by MIT Technology Review’s editorial staff.


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