Treating developer experience like a KPI, focusing on transparency, and ensuring executive buy-in are all effective strategies, members of Protocol's Braintrust say.
Good afternoon! In today's edition, we asked the experts to tell us about the best ways to bring developer experience closer to a company's overall mission. Questions or comments? Send us a note at firstname.lastname@example.org
CIO at Goldman Sachs
Developers must feel empowered to drive business outcomes. No matter what your company does, software is playing a central role — in a world that’s rapidly shifting to fully digital. It’s crucial to attract and retain world-class developer talent, focus on developer experience, and give them complex problems to solve, involving them in the “why” of your business.
Ensure your developers are embedded within your business objectives from the start. Historically, developers asked “how” questions, but if they start with “why,” they understand the end goal from the beginning and connect the business purpose to their work. This process of “working backwards” empowers developers to be engaged with business goals from the beginning of projects and see their work come to fruition with the end customer or client. Instead of being asked to code a product defined by another team, developers and business teams can establish goals together and work backwards in lockstep to solve the problem.
Beyond internal developers, we recently announced a new business called Platform Solutions that has developers as our primary clients. We focus on building and providing cloud-based, developer-centric financial products and services that our corporate and institutional clients can embed in their processes and applications, helping them better serve their own clients and customers.
Improving developer experience both internally and externally — focusing on the developer as a customer externally and tying them to the “why” internally — can have tremendous impact on the quality and market fit of your products, ultimately giving you competitive advantage over those who implement a more traditional approach.
SVP of engineering at Netlify
Make developer experience a top-level company priority. If you want your developers to be productive and happy, don't bury the goal or objective. Most companies tie developer experience to engineering goals, but if your business is driven by your engineering team, developer happiness should be a company-level goal.
Make a positive developer experience one of the outcomes across many company goals (hiring, retention, GTM, etc.) For instance, if you have a goal to increase shipping velocity or tighten delivery times, a positive developer experience should be a KPI.
There are many ways to impact a positive developer experience, especially for digitally driven companies. Start with data to determine how you can improve your digital business, and use that insight to drive change at a human level.
CTO at Atlassian
While developer experience is often equated to developer productivity, I think it's also about developer joy. Building a world-class engineering team is about creating a frictionless environment where developers enjoy writing code, learning, and creating new things. It’s important that we don’t lose sight of what makes this craft fun for engineers, especially as a company that creates products that most developers rely on every day, like Jira Software, Confluence, Bitbucket, and Compass, our developer experience platform.
The key to prioritizing the developer experience across the organization is to incorporate it as a measurable company objective and key result (OKR), rather than piling it on as a mandate. For example, at Atlassian one of our company objectives is to ensure a solid foundation as we scale and become a 100-year enterprise. For our CTO organization, which includes engineering, IT, trust, and security, this means that our key results include improving our developer experience as we triple our engineering team. Example measures include output and input metrics such as developer satisfaction scores, reducing wait times within development cycles, and increasing documentation.
We are big on transparency, which is why our OKRs are openly documented on Confluence, and our progress is tracked on Atlas, our team directory platform. We also build this transparency into the insights feature in Jira Software so developers can see how their work connects to team-level improvements and soon, other upcoming product offerings will allow organizations to see how work connects to top-level company goals.
CEO, North America at Thoughtworks
Tech talent is, arguably, an organization’s biggest competitive differentiator — and cost. Leaders must create satisfying developer experiences (DX). Try treating your developers like internal customers: Provide the right tooling, empowerment, and support; nurture a culture of experimentation; and ensure corporate values are aligned with developers’ own. Leaders should:
- Remove friction from developers’ lives. Learn firsthand what affects your developers’ work. Developers strive for compelling onboarding, self-service, and automation. Well-enabled tech tooling and delivery infrastructure will unblock developers and help them stay meaningfully engaged.
- Let developers shape your strategy. By building developers’ skills into your strategic decisions, leaders can improve experiences, effectiveness, and the quality of their digital products.
- Foster a culture where developers feel safe to experiment. Leaders who create a healthy environment empower developers to innovate and create business value. Studies show that teams with higher psychological safety are less likely to leave, are more likely to bring in more revenue, and are rated "effective" by executives twice as often.
- Deliver on your employer-brand promises. If top developers don’t feel like you’re adhering to pre-employment promises, they’ll move to another employer who will. Walk the talk.
Better DX leads to better talent, which leads to better business results. Paying top salaries is a start, but if you really want the best tech talent long-term, you need to deliver a superior developer experience.
Chief marketing and strategy officer at GitLab
Developer burnout is real, and when you take into account the economic climate and intense competition, it can take a heavy toll on everyone’s teams. To improve the developer experience, it’s important to provide the right environment to navigate this uncertainty and keep them energized. And it starts with transparency.
We know that when employees receive transparent, direct communication at work, they engage better. And this is measurable. Employees who perceive their companies to be transparent report 12 times greater satisfaction than those who feel the opposite according to Future Forum Pulse Summer Snapshot 2022.
There are many opportunities to improve your company’s transparency. You can be transparent by building a strong value system; being open about as many things as possible; explaining “why,” not just “what”; and ensuring a constant feedback loop.
Ultimately, transparency improves business outcomes by reducing burnout, increasing productivity, and attracting recruits who value transparency and therefore will thrive in your culture. By providing an environment for all voices to be heard, team members feel more connected, supported, and empowered.
SVP of engineering at Kong
A good developer experience requires three ingredients: communicating a strong sense of mission, ensuring the “why” behind any key feature is crystal clear, and demonstrating the impact on business metrics.
When developers understand the mission, reasoning, and impacts, they should feel empowered to pick their journey and make their own microdecisions to garner results. Technology leaders can set the parameters and “checkpoints” for the development team to reach along the way, but each individual developer will have their own coding methodology to complete the task. When developers are invested in the mission, they feel driven to make a positive impact on business metrics.
Every employee, developers included, loves to see their personal work impact the business. Developers nowadays are directly working on creating the next digital experience for their audiences, whether they are employees, customers, suppliers or vendors, patients, citizens, or even investors. Developers take pride in building great applications where the code is their main focus. But the code they create still needs to be secure, compliant, tested, and integrated in the flow of development from the larger engineering team. Developers who have the right development platform and environment can focus on building the best application without wasting time reinventing the wheel or redoing work to comply with corporate standards. The better they are enabled to work efficiently, the faster they release products that add to the company top line.
SVP of product development at Intuit
It must be a declared priority from the top. Several years ago, Intuit made a big bet that our investment in creating a world-class modern development environment and providing our technologists with development experiences so they can do the best work of their lives would be pivotal to our company’s success in fueling innovation and catalyzing business growth.
That decision has led to a six-fold increase in development velocity since FY20. At the foundation of Intuit’s financial technology platform is a modern SaaS development environment that enables our team to deliver code fast, with quality, security, and compliance built in. Because of our investment in cloud-native technologies, such as Kubernetes, Argo, and many other Cloud Native Computing Foundation projects, our teams are creating new products and services for our consumer and small business customers at an unparalleled speed. We are also able to accelerate innovation by open-sourcing technologies we create with the broader cloud-native community.
See who's who in the Protocol Braintrust and browse every previous edition by category here (Updated Nov. 1, 2022).
Kevin McAllister ( @k__mcallister) is a Research Editor at Protocol, leading the development of Braintrust. Prior to joining the team, he was a rankings data reporter at The Wall Street Journal, where he oversaw structured data projects for the Journal's strategy team.
More from Braintrust