Coupa Engineers Believe Hard Work Must Be Replaced With Smart Work
As enterprise software products and companies grow, the need for more tools to scale the product, expedite the process, and improve communication grows as well. But what ends up happening is what I dub the tech snowball effect. The constant need to acquire more tools and tech stacks to keep up operations often ends up piling up quickly, making the workflow for teams — primarily engineers — more complex and difficult, leading to tool fatigue.
In the Coupa Engineering department, we’re tackling this challenge head-on. We don’t believe leadership should have sole control over tech decisions. We empower our engineers at every level, as well as managers, to explore and recommend new tools and technologies that are innovative, non-invasive, simple, and faster. We do this because we know none of us is as smart as all of us.
Below I’ll explain some of the tech tools and techniques our engineering department uses to help us work smarter, not harder.
Streamlining our workflow
We want Coupa engineers to spend their time on high-value-added activities that involve personal interaction, problem-solving, and decision-making tasks, which are more valuable to the company and its customer rather than focusing on repetitive work. We’re constantly seeking out ways to update our tech stack to help reduce tool fatigue.
One example of a tool that we’ve adopted at Coupa that helps us do that is AWS Elasticache Redis, a managed service by AWS from self-managed custom EC2 Redis. This off-loads our engineers from the maintenance, scaling, failure recovery, and other tasks that impact operational overhead. Here are some other ways we’re streamlining our workflow:
- Reducing error rates: We want to help our software engineers make processes more efficient and error-free, thereby improving their productivity and freeing them to focus on more complex tasks. We do this by having fellow champions for tech tools, provide training sessions and experts to help along the way.
- Avoiding invasive tool options: During the evaluation phase for new tooling, it should be explored to ensure no major changes are required in the underlying architecture in order for adoption to be successful. One such example of non-invasive implementation is the adoption of AWS Elasticache Redis at Coupa, where engineers assessed the feasibility and easiness of introducing the same with few configurational and endpoint changes, without introducing new risk and changes in infrastructure.
- Making staying compliant easier: With various policy restrictions on how the data captured can be used and stored, companies need to stay fully compliant such as FedRAMP, HIPPA, PCI and others to avoid any serious consequences. As part of Coupa’s internal learning management system, we are able to auto-assign annual compliance requirements with knowledge checks to stay and prove our compliance to our customers and board. With this knowledge base, engineers at Coupa validate and make sure that new tools or technologies are adapted to fulfill compliance requirements.
Addressing technical debt
If you’re an engineer, it’s hard to avoid technical debt. It refers to the notion of prioritizing speed over the functionality of a project and often results in poor shared knowledge among an engineering team. It’s impossible to avoid, but at Coupa, we’re taking steps to address it.
For example, most engineers in the industry have used the public instance of StackOverflow to find solutions or answers to queries. At Coupa, we implemented our own private instance of StackOverflow for teams, allowing for a secure and private place for our engineering teams to share and find knowledge internally about specifics related to our business. This helps us by reducing repetitive queries, aids those with questions to find quick solutions with easy search capabilities, and uses the community’s knowledge rather than just a select few.
The implementation of our own StackOverflow is helping to onboard new engineers more quickly, too. New hires can find the information they need to get up and running without any assistance. The ability to share best practices among our team is just another way we’ve improved our company culture through collaboration.
Finding solutions together
This collaborative environment is what brought me to Coupa in 2020. As a team, we’re always looking for new ways to improve our performance and work smarter, not harder. With the right tools and technology, we’re making that possible. The power of collective knowledge is felt in every aspect of this company, from our customers to our IT department, so if you’re looking for a work environment that values innovative and different ideas, I’ll hope you’ll join us.