Developer Experience Matters!
Organizational success is a result of several things done right at the right time. In the modern business era, where organizations often struggle to thrive, it is critical to stay on top of one particular aspect of business success – the contributors. Right contributors in the right environment often are the keys to improving overall performance. A famous Richard Branson quote says - "if you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients."
So, for IT organizations, the experience your developers get is directly proportional to the experience your clients will get. Organizations focus on retaining talent with bonuses, employee rewards, and benefits in today's competitive market. However, the most ignored part often is the work culture. Understanding if your development team enjoys the work culture, is equally essential. The DevOps that we preach day in and day out is all about culture. I agree that the developer experience, which we usually call DevX/DX, is not as clearly defined as the user experience. Still, the in-house development teams who enjoy and appreciate the work are more likely to add value and create revolutionary applications.
DevX is the scale on which developers would perform essential tasks required to implement a change. A positive or negative DevX is likely to decide if the tasks were relatively easy or hard for the team. Developers' typical tasks can be categorized into Build, Test, and Debug. In build, you need to make sure that changes in the code are free of syntax errors and compile. In the test, it is imperative to verify all automated tests pass. In Debug, you need to connect a debugger to the started solution, step through code, set breakpoints, and inspect variables. The more streamlined these steps, the more would be the returns on the efforts invested in the project. And more positive DevX.
This was about DevX, but the question is, what is the DevX gap? DevX gap is a gap between developer expectations and current reality. The complex part of this definition is expectations, as they will vary from developer to developer. Organizations strive to maintain the developer experience through the SDLC. This is especially important in DevOps since we talk about a cultural shift in the development and operations process. A typical DevOps guy has several tools and platforms to work on. Plus, now there are multiple infrastructures. It becomes essential to maintain the developer's experience throughout. So, now you have tools and platforms for everything on one side. On the other hand, you have to integrate them perfectly to maintain the experience. This gap is precisely the DevX gap.
Why does bridging the developer experience gap matter?
Developers usually experiment with new languages, tools, and practices to deliver exceptional software products. Forcing your development teams to work in a predefined programmed way on specific tools or issues for a more extended period can leave them unmotivated. This further can restrict innovation. Allowing them to experiment with their work or tools and technologies can improve the overall experience. Organizations can try time schemes for their development team, giving them a defined time to experiment with ideas and innovations without worrying about tangible outcomes. This time can be determined during individual working hours or by arranging internal engagement activities, where all the development team members can work on a single project.
Let's see some of the crucial aspects that can bridge the DevX gap for you.
Ways to bridge the developer experience gap
- Development Environment: As I said earlier, developers like to experiment with tools, technologies, and languages to innovate. Organizations usually provide cloud-enabled development environments with integrated toolchains and automated build and deploy pipelines. If you are looking to reduce the developer experience gap, create a development environment that can allow them to experiment. This will help to validate their unique idea and will nurture their skills. Organizations proactively supporting their development teams with such development environments positively reinforce the developer experience.
- Collaboration: For innovation and the effective development of ideas, collaboration is imperative. With effective collaboration among developers, they can exchange ideas, discuss unique designs, get a review of code and have war room sessions. Organizations are investing in communication tools and channels to enable collaboration among developers irrespective of their location. This can help establish a strong developer community within an organization.
- Tools and Processes: Developers equipped with the right development tools and processes are more likely to create promising applications. Automating repetitive tasks frees up time for developers to invest in more productive things. Tasks such as writing skeletal code, unit test cases, utility libraries, and performing testing can be automated to save developers crucial time. Organizations are also investing in AI/ML-enabled tools for basic coding and testing.
- Cross-team collaboration activities: To reduce the developer experience gap, organizations should enable effective and easy project allocation and handling. It is equally essential for other team members to understand developers' experiences and issues with their projects. Every team member should be aware of the setback in others’ workflows and potential issues to make an ever-lasting organizational change. Collaborative activities like Hackathons let everyone participate in a task that helps everyone understand the pain points or execution time & delays.
- Internal policies and processes: Developers have to deal with thousands of lines of code to deploy a single software. It is very crucial to allocate them priority work and avoid repetitive tasks. If your organization requires lengthy and complex approval processes to create a new repository, developers might get engaged in less-priority work and waste their productive time. Creating a development environment where developers can get quick approval for projects they are working on can help enhance the developer experience gap. Modifying internal policies and processes in developers' interest can also help improve the developer experience.
To start your DevX journey, begin with a platform for developers where information, tools, and automation can be centralized and made available to everyone. To eliminate the time wasted on repetitive or less priority work, automate as much as possible. Arrange collaborative sessions and activities that can add to a positive developer experience. Remember that the positive developer experience is directly proportional to the quality of output and innovation.