• Raveen Kuhadas

Multitudes - Enabling Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

Multitudes’ software provides businesses with analytics and insights to unlock happier, higher-performing software engineering teams.


Its unique approach is to see teams from a people-focused lens (particularly focused on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) rather than a pure Performance-based lens. This can be effective, as culture is a leading indicator of team performance. It also builds trust with team members, which is important for behaviour change and client success.


This approach comes from founder Lauren Peate’s journey and passion for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. Software engineering is just the start. Her long-term vision is to use digital spaces (e.g. GitHub, Slack) to change behaviour at scale to create more equitable and inclusive workplaces.


Along with the potential for a large addressable market, such an ambitious mission will appeal to staff, clients, and investors. A world with fairer, more inclusive workplaces is one I would love to see.


Index

  1. DevOps: An Evolution in Software Engineering (link here)

  2. Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (link here)

  3. Lauren’s Journey (link here)

  4. Multitudes and Its Unique Approach (link here)

  5. Multitudes' Product Led Growth (link here)

 

The Multitudes Founding Team (Left to Right): Vivek Katial, Emily Melhuish, Lauren Peate and Jenny Sahng.


DevOps: An Evolution in Software Engineering


Segment Key Points

  • DevOps represents an evolution in software engineering required to keep pace with increasing consumer expectations.

  • Collaboration and transparency are key to this approach. Software teams leverage platforms such as GitHub, Jira and Slack to collaborate, share and create software projects.

  • Common productivity frameworks fail to adequately consider cultural factors such as collaboration and the creation of psychologically safe environments, which is key to high-performing teams.


Before the mid-2000s, the various teams in the IT department worked in silos. Developers wrote code, Quality Assurance teams tested it, and IT Operations teams deployed it into production as shown below:


Siloed teams and a linear process


This was a linear, siloed and slow process. However, the advent of smartphones resulted in the ‘consumerisation’ of software. Smooth and intuitive products like Netflix raised expectations for software in general.


It then became important to be able to quickly change or add features to the software based on customer feedback.


This led to a natural conflict between the Development team, who wanted to push out features and updates rapidly, and other members of the IT department focused on the security and stability of the entire product.


In 2008, system administrator Partick Debois and Andrew Shafer began working on a movement to bridge the gap between development and operations teams. They would eventually call this DevOps.


DevOps refers to an iterative way of working where Development, IT Operations, Security teams etc., work collaboratively to build, test and provide feedback throughout the software development life-cycle.


The various stages of this approach are:

  • Idea- Teams gather requirements and feedback.

  • Build– Building the software product/release. Developers ship code into a central repository using a platform such as GitHub, a code/work hosting platform for version control and collaboration. Continuous Integration is used where automated tools integrate and test the code changes from multiple contributors.

  • ShipContinuous Delivery tools and processes are used to automate the software release process.

  • Learn– Operations teams monitor the impact of the released updates or code changes. They gather customer feedback and collaborate with developers for required fixes etc.


Stages of DevOps – continuous collaboration between teams throughout the process


The 3 things to note about this approach are


  1. Collaboration between teams is key in contrast to the traditional siloed approach. As such, there is a strong cultural piece to the DevOps approach.

  2. Collaboration within software teams is facilitated by the common use of platforms such as Github.

  3. Common engineering tools (Continous Integration/Continous Deployment platforms, GitHub etc.) allow for increased automation, which improves efficiency and reliability.


There is a real need to measure the performance of engineers in this process. A Google study found that high performing teams outperformed low performers by a factor of 24x.


However, the DevOps approach involves both process and cultural changes. Therefore, it can be difficult to measure team performance solely with productivity metrics such as lines of code written. For example, a developer could increase the software's stability by replacing complex code with fewer lines of well-thought-out code. As such, these kinds of productivity metrics can be a poor measure of value created.


The DORA (DevOps Research and Assessments) framework is a popular approach to measure DevOps performance. It consists of a set of 4 metrics split between quality and speed.


However, such approaches on their own tend to neglect the importance of culture and collaboration, which are critical to the DevOps approach and for team performance in general.


To this point, a Google Study (Project Aristotle) on team effectiveness found that psychological safety is the primary attribute impacting team performance.


Psychological safety refers to an environment where team members feel comfortable to take risks, such as asking a question or coming forward with a new idea.


This was a surprising result as it meant that creating a psychologically safe environment mattered more than who the individual contributors were to the team.


How can managers and team leaders create such an environment for their teams? By adopting the principles used in Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.


Diversity, Equity and Inclusion


Segment Key Points

  • The concept of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) is that everyone has something of value to contribute, but our societies put up more barriers for people from marginalised groups.

  • DEI principles like Privilege and Allyship can contribute to an environment where all team members feel safe to come forward and contribute ideas

  • The same principles can also be used to promote psychological safety.


There is a growing business case for DEI. A McKinsey & Company study found that organisations with ethnically and culturally diverse executive teams were 36% more likely to achieve above-average profitability. DEI is also linked to customer-centricity.


Diversity, Equity and Inclusion goes beyond race and gender aspects that companies have historically focused on.


To better understand this concept, it is worth explaining what the individual terms mean:


  • Diversity– The presence of differences in the workplace such as race, gender, sexuality, ableness etc.

  • Equity– Creating fair access, opportunity, and advancement. I.e. a fair playing field. Equity differs from equality in that it recognises that marginalised individuals face structural barriers to access opportunity and the need for additional support.

  • Inclusion– Building a sense of belonging by empowering team members to participate and valuing their contributions. I.e. team members feel that their voices matter.

Chart illustrating the concept of equity and how it can lead to fairer outcomes and greater participation

The concept of DEI is that everyone has something of value to contribute, but we live in a world that puts up more blockers and barriers for people from marginalised groups. Removing these barriers can increase collaboration and result in benefits like increased innovation.


For this collaboration to occur, team members need to feel:

  • Psychologically safe contributing their ideas

  • Valued and included in the decision-making process – e.g. knowing that their managers will go to bat for them, invite them to be part of key meetings, etc.


How can team leaders create such an environment? By understanding their own privilege and becoming allies who take action to change harmful systems – key concepts in DEI


Privilege describes the unearned benefits or advantages that belong to a group of people due to aspects of their identity such as race, gender, wealth etc.


Understanding the privilege possessed by different groups allows managers to identify barriers that marginalised team members might be facing. For example, paying attention to who is and isn’t speaking up or who hasn’t been invited to key meetings.

Allyship is the mechanism where managers become collaborators with these marginalised team members to promote Equity in the workplace, thereby removing these barriers to participation.


Note the relationship with psychological safety where team members are in an environment where they feel comfortable voicing their ideas.


The principles of DEI feature heavily in Multitudes’ unique approach; However, Lauren’s passion for DEI comes from a space where these principles are used to save lives.


Lauren’s Journey


Key Points

  • Lauren’s passion for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion comes from her time working for a not-for-profit organisation in the prevention of violence against women space.

  • She saw first-hand how tools such as Privilege, Equity and Allyship can be used to save lives by putting more focus on why perpetrators cause abuse against these often marginalised individuals.

  • Using these concepts, she founded Ally Skills NZ, whose unique approach is to turn those with privilege into allies to foster greater team participation and performance.


Lauren’s passion for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion started from her youth, when her parents encouraged her to donate a portion of her pocket money and involved the family in volunteering events such as soup kitchens.


She continued this concept of volunteering at university, where she became the Program Coordinator for The Centre for Relationship Abuse Awareness. This is a not-for-profit that focuses on preventing relationship-based violence against women.


The Centre For Relationship Abuse Awareness where Lauren was a Program Coordinator


Here she was exposed to situations where marginalisation can lead to violence. Principals and tools used in DEI are used to save lives by switching the focus from what survivors of abuse “should” do to why perpetrators cause abuse and what can be done to stop them from choosing violence.


An important tool used in this area is the concept of intersectionality, first coined by a legal scholar named Kimberle Crenshaw. This refers to how different aspects of a person’s identity (race, gender etc.) can expose them to overlapping forms of inequality, which then exacerbate each other. This is because of biases inherent in society’s attitudes, systems, and structures.


Intersectionality means that it isn’t enough to look at gender, since women of colour and women with disabilities and queer women (etc.) will face different and additional barriers from a straight, white woman (for example).


To shift the conversation to focus on perpetrators of abuse and to look at inequities in the support that different groups get, volunteers like Lauren needed to:


  • Recognise their own privilege, such as being a white person and having a formal education

  • Understand the concept of equity, which focuses on whether the system is treating each person fairly – not just giving everyone the same support and expecting that to work for all groups.


Allyship is another common principle used in this space. A good illustration of this is the speech given at the UN by actress and activist Emma Watson, where she spoke of the need to invite men to the cause of gender equality.


These insights would be central to Lauren’s consulting venture Ally Skills NZ, a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion consultancy with a technology company client base.


Ally Skills NZ website


Ally Skills NZ’s unique approach is to turn those with privilege into allies to foster greater team participation and performance. Lauren saw how successful this approach could be while running and coaching corporate teams.


Like many consulting businesses, the issue Lauren faced was determining the impact her recommendations had on her clients post the consulting engagement or workshop, particularly on how teams were collaborating.


Her solution to this would become Multitudes.


Multitudes and Its Unique Approach


Key Points

  • Multitudes’ software provides businesses with analytics and insights to unlock happier, higher-performing software engineering teams.

  • Its unique approach is to do so by helping managers create a collaborative and psychologically safe environment.

  • The high level of customer empathy and transparency creates trust with their clients’ entire team making behaviour change (and customer success) more likely.

After conducting numerous customer interviews, Lauren realised that teams often struggled to get insights on team wellbeing and collaboration. At the same time, she observed the trend of teams increasingly doing work on digital spaces and repositories like GitHub.


She realised that these platforms could provide her with the data on how team members are interacting as well as team performance.


Multitudes was founded in 2019 after testing the first prototype with an Ally Skills NZ client.


Multitudes’ software provides businesses with analytics and insights to unlock more equitable and higher-performing teams. The current focus is on software engineering teams using GitHub.


Clients integrate with Multitudes’ GitHub app. Multitude then analyses the client’s metadata (rather than the client’s code which is not shared) for insights on team members. Team leaders use these insights to improve team performance.


The pricing plan includes a 30-day free trial and US$15 per team member.


It is important to realise that:


  • The data Multitudes uses is from team behaviours and interactions.

  • Customer success is dependent on changing behaviours. E.g. increasing collaboration.


Therefore, getting the trust and support of the entire team (rather than just team leaders/managers) is key. I.e., team members should get access to their own data, get value from the tool and not feel that they are ‘being watched’ by someone else.


As such, Multitudes’ unique approach is to see team evaluation from a DEI or cultural lens rather than a pure engineering efficiency or performance-based lens.


This approach takes a more holistic view of team performance by helping managers create an environment where team members can fully participate. I.e. a psychologically safe environment.


Therefore, the metrics evaluated are a combination of wellbeing, collaboration, and performance.


Multitude product demo. Left to Right: Performance, wellbeing and collaboration metrics


A high level of customer empathy is used in deciding what is monitored. Multitudes has listed their Data Ethics principles on their website in a blog post titled ‘Measure What Matters and Don’t Be Creepy’.


Principles such as Reciprocity (the need to give individuals value in return for their data) and Collective Benefit build trust with individual team members that their interests are aligned with what Multitudes is trying to build. Multitudes also uses these metrics on its own team – “dog-fooding” the product to test and improve it further with their team.


Its beta launch was well received and Multitudes now has customers in New Zealand, Australia, US and the UK.


The level of customer focus and empathy comes from Multitudes’ culture. See my previous post for a more extensive discussion on culture.


DEI is embedded in Multitudes’ corporate values and is actively practised by Lauren and her team in company events, individual action plans and accountability partners.


As one example of this accountability being held by people across the team, Lauren herself is often prompted by team member Vivek Katial to schedule internal DEI accountability and workshop sessions.


In conversation with Multitudes Data Scientist Vivek Kiatial on Multitudes’ approach to Customer Centricity.


The result is a highly customer-centric product that is easy for teams to adopt and has applications beyond the software engineering department. These are the ingredients for Product Led Growth.


Multitudes Product Led Growth


Key Points


  • Multitudes’ focus on improving performance through team behaviour comes from Lauren’s mission to make workplaces adopt DEI.

  • Its product is easy to adopt and can provide insights straight away, making it ideal for the Product Led Growth SaaS strategy, enabling growth into markets beyond software engineering.

  • If successful, Multitudes would enable behaviour change at scale. Lauren’s ambitious, positive mission will appeal to staff, clients and investors.


Multitudes is building its product around analysing the types of team behaviour that are good for people and can improve performance.


This contrasts with other engineering efficiency tools, which are primarily focused on measuring the performance of software engineers.


The focus on team behaviour stems from Lauren’s mission to promote DEI and how this can create a fairer workplace and, therefore, higher-performing teams.


This ambitious mission can result in a market far larger than software engineering efficiency. Lauren believes that Multitudes could eventually serve a $95bn market as shown below:



To penetrate these large markets, Lauren is using a similar approach used by leading SaaS companies like Atlassian – Product Led Growth.


See my previous article for a more detailed discussion on the Product Led Growth model.


In summary, the Product Led Growth model allows SaaS companies to grow faster and at lower costs by designing a product that sells itself.


The key to this model is having a product that is easy for clients to adopt, demonstrates value for the client quickly and uses feedback/data from clients to design additional features.


The steps Multitudes could take look as follows:


  1. Start with the software engineering space where there is a need for collaboration and performance (see previous section on DevOps)

  2. Get into more companies with a product that is easy to adopt and shows value quickly. Multitudes takes minutes to set up, uses passive data and gives insights straight away from analysing 6 weeks’ worth of historical client data.

  3. Progressively build an Insights Database from client data and feedback. This is used to validate and improve the product, and to provide customised insights and recommendations for customers.

  4. Expand into other departments (e.g. Product Managers, Designers) within companies by integrating with other digital platforms such as Slack, Jira, Figma etc.

  5. Eventually, add integrations to support any team that collaborates using software. This would allow Multitudes to expand into other industries beyond technology, e.g., financial and professional services, healthcare, and more.


If successful, Multitudes would have enabled behavioural change at scale.


It was a joy learning about Lauren’s journey and mission. A world with fairer, more inclusive workplaces is one I would love to see.