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Productivity2023-04-11

7 Reasons for CTOs to Invest in Developer Experience

7 Reasons CTOs Should Prioritize and Invest in Developer Experience (DevEx) – The Key to Efficient Development, innovations, and Happy Developers.
7 Reasons for CTOs to Invest in Developer Experience

Marc Andreesen was one of the first few to foresee the recent software boom, with his long bystanding quote- “In the future, every company will become a software company.” While the pandemic years fit perfectly into his predictions, the real question is: Where does all this software come from?

The answer is your developers. Software engineering teams are the frontrunner of the current software sprawl. Much has been already talked about what developers bring to modern software development, and the SaaS world. They work at the intersection of product, business, and customer requirements, ensuring robust product delivery to end-users, with continuous feedback from all sides. The list of features worked by devs gets longer every month, making them an integral part of any product growth. 

And that’s where sustaining developer experience at an organization becomes vital. Developers are often easily overlooked, suffer from an overarching imposter syndrome and have a hard time converting their thoughts, feelings or happiness to their managers or leads. By investing in developer experience, engineering leaders can ensure a productive development team doing their best work without any blockers. 

What Does a Bad Developer Experience Look Like? 

 Bad developer experience usually encompasses outdated processes, either an overwhelming toolstack or a complete lack of important tools, and more so, less effective coding time. The list goes long, when all developer inconveniences are taken into consideration. 

Another anti-pattern in the DevEx paradigm is lack of standard documentation, coupled with zero feedback, logs, SDK, and any meaningful field description. Without any documentation, devs have no example, nothing to reference their deployments from. 

 An organization can unintentionally create bad developer experience for their engineers by merely considering them a cog in the wheel, rather than a separate entity in themselves. It is a long standing notion in the tech world to just see developers as builders, rather than end-users. The approach can spiral down into alienated and detached developers with no affinity for what they are building. 

7 Reasons for CTOs to Invest in Developer Experience

Developer frustration with the inputs provided, or the overall development process, can even severely impact the time to market, and overall brand image, making it important for engineering leaders to invest in DevEx. 

Here are top reasons for CTOs to invest in developer experience: 

1. Breaking Down SDLC Impediments

Developer blockers are both cultural and technological in nature, however, one thing binds them both: lack of visibility into dev’s work. Sometimes, lack of visibility translates into a culture of micromanagement, or bossware, with excessive work centralization. 

Engineering managers too have a hard time knowing about their devs and have to schedule constant status updates, thus, harming their flow state. For developers, it translates into wasted time, and hours of waiting to greenlight any progress made. 

By devoting enough resources into DX, teams can establish enough guardrails around cost, quality, and security so developers have a free rein with what goes into the parameters. Such an autonomous process has the potential to boost developer productivity, and creativity while increasing job satisfaction in parallel. 

An extra push to API and library enablement goes a long way in streamlining developer’s work. Teams can only break their knowledge silos, when they are empowered to do so, either via freeing up time for tech transfer, or reducing team’s unproductive work. This is how DX can even support teams in reducing their cognitive load.  

When managers too have a developer-centric, and not C-suite mindset in crafting team processes, they can iterate better, customized, and out of the book practices suiting their teams. 

2. Better DevEx= Automation, Happy Developers & Higher Productivity

In the initial years of software sprawl, CTOs took a ‘hire more devs’ approach to bad code. They thought hiring the best software talent in the world was the solution to writing more readable, and quality code. The concept might have worked in small teams, with overworked developers, but with larger teams and decentralized work division, the issues run deep. 

By investing in automation, the overall experience of developers with your existing toolchain can radically transform. That way developers can save time in verifying new features, and can channelize it into building new features. For instance, merging a feature into the main codebase can take hundreds of tests, and consume hours before it starts running. With intelligent automation, the same process drills down to only 15-20 minutes. Moreover, there are special, low-cost toolings with automatic approvals, and defined guardrails for project specifications. 

 Investing in pro-developer technologies pays dividends for years to come. 

3. Reducing Developer Toil, and Burnout 

83% of developers are dealing with professional burnout today, with 50% of them citing their alienation somewhere between moderate to great. The burnout problem in software development is real, and what’s alarming is the numbers are continuously rising. 

Developer burnout statistics

When developers are forced to work in a coercive working environment, they cannot perform well, thus decreasing their overall productivity, and creating a chronic culture of dev burnout. This detachment could be because of anything from high operational work, to incident load, meetings, or less effective coding hours. 

Jyoti Bansal quotes on developer toil

When engineering leaders invest in building pro-developer processes, they can know where the real challenges in the SDLC lie. Deploying engineering analytics is one way to deal with rising engineering burnout. With team data, coupled with enough context, engineering leaders can get complete visibility into a dev’s work, including signs of burnout, and make the right calls.

4. Continuous Improvement, and Continuous Innovation

Unblocking the creative side of developers is directly related to bringing changes in your developer experience strategy. Getting more from developers means ensuring happy, and satisfied developers. One way of building on your pro-dev culture is by reserving some slack time for innovation. Only when devs have blocked hours for growth, can they bring changes into the system, even creating a better workflow for themselves and other teammates. 

Again, automation is one way to free up developers from the shackles of time-consuming delivery, and testing practices. Another way is to adopt async culture so devs don’t have to live with fragmented schedules, and a broken flow state. Both practices are a key component of building developer experience in an organization. 

5. Retaining Developer Talent 

The hardest thing in the world right now is to build complex products, the second hardest thing, however, is to find the best engineering talent to create them. 74% of developers are presently unhappy with their current recruiters, and are planning to quit their jobs, and a high salary bump is not the only reason on their list. In 2022, resignations in tech went up by 4.5%. Even now, after calls of double-dip recession knocking our door, companies are keenly looking for software developers. 

Developers quitting jobs

Frustrated developers quit, either because of too ineffficient workflows, or because companies only treat them as a technical resource. A resigned workforce is the greatest failure of a company's DX efforts. Even more so, the global dev community is a tightly bound one. A company failing badly with DX can spiral into low developer retention, and troubled future hirings.  

One way to retain devs is to remove any toil from their workflow that stops devs from performing their core tasks. It could be anything- reducing meeting overload, building heavy on your Ops/SRE team, or creating internal tools for more efficient workflow. By investing in developer experience, CTOs can build on thriving developers, strike out frustrations from workflows, and retain developer talent. 

6. Invest in DevEx To Bring Down Development Costs

Especially as someone leading tech, CTOs have a higher chip on their shoulder when it comes to bringing down costs. Software development amounts to 63% of a project’s budget, leaving engineering with a higher potential to optimize resources. 

When workflows are too much loaded with digital tools; they are bound to create complex processes, and devs have hard time fitting themselves. Happy developers can go a long way in minimizing a company’s budget footprint. When a team’s engineering culture is created with developers at center, tons of administrative, and operational tasks are minimized, or delegated to seperate teams, so devs can do their best work. 

By investing in DX, hirings and retention become easier. Moreover,when engineering at your workplace is sorted, developers can bring more ideas to the product-business meetings, optimize anything tech that is not working out for them, while ensuring quality product delivery- all in all reducing your product expenses.  

7. A Prerequisite to Customer Experience

Companies keep circling back to UX, and they should, since their end-users define the success of what they have built, over months and years. Developers are your first consumers, they test your product, optimize new changes as per client feedback, can think from a user-first approach, and even are potential customers to your final product. 

Traditionally, UX, and DX have been at crossroads to each other. However, times are changing. Companies that have figured out DX can quickly adapt to customer demands, and think from a unique user perspective by amalgamating the dev-user persona. By investing in developer experience, organizations can launch faster, and better apps, bring in new products with improved UX, and drill down on quality. 

DX, in a way, helps organizations to create a stand-out with business branding so that you never lose on their brand identity. This is exactly what Synk, and Auth0 did. Synk first implemented their product on developers, empowered them to come forward with feedback, and end-users, and asked them to completely own their security infrastructure, rather than getting worked around by a centralized SecOps team. Synk empowered their developers to remove any inefficiency from the current security practices that bogs devs down. The move worked its magic, and Synk through its developer iterations, and insights, managed to achieve 100% YoY revenue increase. 

Get Invested in Your Developers' Experience

There has to be a context change in how a modern enterprise-developer relationship looks like. A healthy work culture for devs is more than free snacks, and foosball tables; rather it is about the overall joy a developer feels while building products and doing what they love doing the most. 

Big ships turn slowly, but it doesn’t have to be the case for big techs today. What devs wanted in the early 2000s vs what they need in the 2020s has changed radically. Devs should not just be at the forefront of software development, but should also be the face of cultural and process changes in an organization. 

Developer experience is not another tech-buzzword, rather it closely follows a brand’s success trajectory. The payoff for investing in developer experience goes beyond benefits for tech teams, and can even bring the next wave innovation. 

Backing developer experience is not a one-time event. The process will take continuous team brainstorming, involvement of every stakeholder- from devs, to CTOs, and CEO, remove blockers, and use data-driven insights. Yet the change is well within our reach, and the RoI is far too great to ignore. 

Get invested in your developer’s work today! 

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Table of Contents
  • What Does a Bad Developer Experience Look Like? 
  • 7 Reasons for CTOs to Invest in Developer Experience
  • 1. Breaking Down SDLC Impediments
  • 2. Better DevEx= Automation, Happy Developers & Higher Productivity
  • 3. Reducing Developer Toil, and Burnout 
  • 4. Continuous Improvement, and Continuous Innovation
  • 5. Retaining Developer Talent 
  • 6. Invest in DevEx To Bring Down Development Costs
  • 7. A Prerequisite to Customer Experience
  • Get Invested in Your Developers' Experience

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