What is Developer Experience (DX), Really?
Developer Experience is the sum total of interactions and satisfaction devs have with their tool stack, workflow, and overall SDLC. DX tends to move from the traditional 'devs know it all' to making developer satisfaction a priority, and even part of the engineering success checklist.
Most companies focus on the face value of DX by focusing on the interoperability of tools as a successful metric of developer satisfaction. However, it is much more. DX covers every step of software development, right from writing codes, to reviewing, testing, maintaining code, addressing team workload, productive work, workflow blockers, and even non-core tasks like hiring, taking interviews, and attending meetings. If any of these metrics drop, developer experience at an organization might take a fall and snowball into low engineering efficiency, technical debt, and alienation among developers.
3 Proven Ways to Improve and Sustain Developer Experience
Now that we are clear on what developer experience is, let’s talk about improving developer experience, and how to sustain it in the long run for a thriving engineering team.
More Deep Work, Less Context Switching
Context switching has been the number one frustration of developers globally, hands down. On average, a developer faces 87 interruptions every day, and codes for only 30% of their total work hours. The rest goes between meetings, managing pre-commit testing, jumping from Slack to Jira and Gmail, and attending another meeting again. Devs are meant to don multiple hats, but such frequent switching between roles can fatigue them and leaves minimum time for what they love the most- writing code and experimenting with current workflows. All of this impacts a developer's overall experience towards the work performed, and even the overall goals they are looking to achieve.
One way to deal with constant meetings distributed throughout is to club them together in a time period, specifically marked for meetings and external communications. The idea is to reserve specific hours for the dev's core tasks and keep trivial alerts, notifications, and distractions at bay.
Hatica's maker time metrics help teams to track their deep work hours, time spent on non-core tasks, and booking specific time blocks for each type of work, so team collaboration doesn't happen at the expense of individual developer’s satisfaction with their work.
Coming to the second part of the problem, Hatica has come up with automated check-ins to tackle the first part of the problem. Hatica's async meeting feature helps teams to log their daily, and weekly work items so teams are aware of who is working on what, and engineering managers can utilize the standup hours for discovering bottlenecks, than taking status updates.
Moreover, Hatica's integration with a team toolstack helps team leads to have complete visibility over each member's assigned tasks, so developers can have focus time to work on their core items, without having to frequently attend meetings or tell members what they are working on.
Striking Out "Frustrations" From Developer Workflows
Optimized workflow and developer experience are not mutually exclusive; both impact each other in more ways than what appears to a human eye in the first instance. There was once a time when software development cycles were linear, and looked organized, atleast from a bird's eye view. However, the closer you look, the notion holds no longer true. Software development today happens in a more organic, non-linear, and bottom-up way, making the whole process complicated and even messy at times. Sustaining developer experience, in the long run, means removing fundamental bottlenecks devs face, right from writing code, to shipping, product maintenance, and final delivery to end users.
One consistent blocker for developers globally has been code reviews and debugging. The code review cycle could be tiresome at times- waiting for external maintainers to check your code, and an incomplete review process dragging to production. Constantly undermining a fair review process can lead to an inflated cycle time, and lead time- the next part of the problem.
Cycle time is more often used as a metric to infer team velocity. However, when used with enough context and visibility, cycle time can act as a warning signal for a fragmented development cycle. High cycle time is not just a team problem, but also affects individual contributors and the way they work. Mostly, high cycle times are attributed to a broken feedback loop, pending code reviews, and unsustainable delivery timelines. But the impacts are more severe than the causes themselves. If teams continue having high cycle times, developers find themselves context switching between different PRs, and git branches, while creating sprint-over-sprint backlogs. A team imbalance gets created over time, severely endangering developer experience.
All these workflow frustrations have a clear solution: use data to gain visibility, find all process blockers, and sit with ICs and teams to resolve them, one barrier at a time. Hatica's review collaboration dashboard integrates across a team's VCS tools to visualize PR collaborations, reviews done per developer, PR sizes, and code reworks- all pointing to the state of code reviews in a team. With enough contextual data in hand, managers can take steps on reducing task sizes, and batches for teams to merge code at a compatible pace.
Combining the collaboration metric with the cycle time dashboard helps to locate code workload for all ICs, and the status of all PRs wrt assigned tasks- open, merged, or closed, impediments to team velocity. With the added metrics, teams can get a mini-view of the whole SDLC in one place, and make optimizations, wherever necessary.
All of these data-driven insights can be then collated in one place under Hatica reports for real-time feedback, and course correct as soon as a red flag on any dashboard occurs. Removing SDLC impediments have a compounding effect on developer productivity, and in turn, leads to a positive developer experience.
Focusing on Developer Well-Being
A vital part of developer experience is to ensure developer happiness through fulfilling and productive work. However, the trends say the opposite. Almost 82% of developers have experienced burnout in the past year, and mind you, the great resignation in engineering is still happening even after layoffs and threats of recession.
Burnouts happen when engineers feel alienated and disenchanted from their very own creations. The reasons might vary, based on team size and work process. However, the end results stay the same: Poor DX and several devs looking to quit or take a sabbatical.
Hatica's well-being dashboard helps engineering teams fight burnout and resignation by combining data and empathy together. The heatmap metrics help engineering managers locate outside work hours for each member, and answer why devs have to work too many hours- a major factor behind chronic developer burnout.
With added help from interview and incident load metrics, teams have a clear picture of where devs are spending most of their time except coding, and figure out alert fatigue in developers, and if they are always on, especially when work hours are over. These issues mainly stem when teams undergo unsustainable workload distribution, owing to poor visibility. The workload allocation index is a solution to all task allocation issues. Managers, with all data in one place, can see each workload per developer, and how to optimize work hours for a healthy mix of all activities: code, incident management, hiring tasks, and PR reviews.
With data-driven insights, engineering leaders can reduce burnout risk in developers, keep developers happy and sustain developer experience in the long run.
Developer Experience: The Future of Software Development
Executives across the globe want to bring down project developmental costs, especially in a tight economy like 2023. Leaders today need to firsthand prioritize developer experience: only with continuous innovation, and a flowing developmental cycle, developers can do more than what's expected of them. And that's how most exceptional projects in software history were ever created.
An engineering management platform is the need of the hour for engineering teams today. With data-driven analytics, engineering teams can reduce friction, maximize work efficiency, automate improvements, and become the best at every task they pick and choose. Hatica equips engineering teams with factual visibility across the development cycle to accelerate project delivery and create a healthy developer experience. Learn how Hatica can help you build better engineering workflows. Request a demo →