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The 5 things developers want from business leaders

In the race for innovation, executives must pay attention to the developer experience, writes IAN JANSEN VAN RENSBURG of VMware

Organisations increasingly acknowledge the vital role that developers play in delivering competitive advantage through innovative apps and digital services, as these enable them to remain relevant in an ever-transforming world. As a result, most have a ‘developer experience’ (DevEx) strategy in place mainly to enable developers to do their job effectively without the associated friction of dealing with monolithic technologies.

But improving the developer experience results in more than just happy and productive employees it also helps organizations realize significant business benefits. Seventy-five per cent of IT and business leaders recognize that developer experience is important to business strategy execution, according to a recent study carried out by VMware and Forrester. Sixty-nine per cent also agrees that a good developer experience results in a better customer experience.

So, what needs to be done to ensure a smooth and seamless developer experience? Here are five actions to get companies started:

  1. Let developers tell you what they want: Many decision makers base their developer experience strategy on what they think developers want. In fact, according to the study, ninety-four per cent of respondents say that although their firms have a DevEx strategy in place, only one in four believes the approach is mature and delivers value. To address this, developers must be included in strategy conversations from the very beginning. 

Making arbitrary changes to the software delivery toolchain will only create chaos. Instead, organisations must consider creating a value stream map to uncover software development speedbumps, manual handoffs, and, most importantly, where friction exists within the software delivery process. Chances are they will find a combination of process and technology related issues and a baseline from which to improve. With a value stream roadmap in place, they can then create a strategy that focuses on the highest impact changes first.

  1. Give developers the right tools: Today’s enterprises are in a constant technology juggle. They must navigate monolithic legacy architectures while embracing modern options such as microservices – and simultaneously deploying open-source software to maximise business flexibility. On their way, they could easily lose themselves in a steadily growing landscape of new tools, concepts, and frameworks. According to VMware’s research, three in five respondents say that this complexity inhibits their developers’ productivity and experience. Even when unavoidable, delayed software product launches not only impede revenue but can also spur team conflict and erode developer confidence.

As organisations look to reduce friction and complexity in development processes, providing developers with the right tools is imperative. For example, specific solutions that streamline lifecycles from deterministic build to deployment in production, providing templates and standard technical stacks, would make a significant difference: less tinkering, less decision fatigue, and more quality time coding.

  1. Expand the use of automation: Automation in the form of DevSecOps tools and capabilities has had a profound impact on both the reliability of software delivery as well as the ability to restore sanity to developers’ lives. It’s no surprise then that application deployment automation was listed as the top capability expected to improve developers’ experiences in the research. One way for organisations to do this is by getting rid of weekend deployments and war rooms by adopting deployment automation. This will enable deterministic weekday deployments with confidence and peace of mind.
  2. Include access to open source: Open-source software has been a critical force in driving innovation throughout the software industry. Yet open source itself is undergoing fundamental changes with more restrictive licenses and dormant security vulnerabilities. That’s why it’s crucial to provide developers with access to a curated set of open-source software products and components that can be trusted and that have a strong community or software vendor to support them.
  3. Use standardised application templates to get a jump start: For many developers, getting started is the hardest part. A developer experience which includes application blueprints for configuring services, managing dependencies, or access to libraries goes a long way toward helping developers not only get a jump start but get moving in the right direction. This way, they can start delivering value sooner while automatically implementing corporate good practices and guidelines for compliance and security.

Amid the worldwide developer talent crunch, with headcount and hiring buffeted by the pandemic and the “Great Resignation,” many organisations are realising the importance of investing in the developer experience to enhance recruitment, retention, and competitiveness. Leaders also increasingly understand that improving the developer experience in this app-driven world is a competitive differentiator that is critical to their firms’ customer experience and business strategy execution. Many large software companies created dedicated Developer Relations (DevRel) positions to foster developer communities, craft education material and ease product usage.

Furthermore, according to VMware’s research, seventy-one per cent of business and technology leaders also concede that they need to understand better and support the application development and delivery process. This educational process, beginning with listening to your developers and then integrating the right technology and tools, is a formative step toward improving the developer experience and in turn, deriving the associated business value.

Ian Jansen Van Rensburg is director of solutions engineering and lead technologist at VMware Sub-Saharan Africa 


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