Developer Experience is the latest buzzword in software development. It’s used as a catch-all term, with meanings from a wide-ranging approach to center developers in an application’s lifecyle, to a narrowly-defined description of the mission of a single team. The latter end of the spectrum is what this article addresses: Developer Experience teams, and the added value they bring to a company.
Like CloudOps teams but on a larger scale, DEX teams make sure that developers can focus on development work. Their mission is to shift the burden of dealing with tool issues away from product development teams onto the shoulders of dedicated personnel.
With more efficient development teams, businesses might be opening the door to an annual benefit of $1.7 million (IDC study).
On the level of the individual employees, it makes perfect sense. Your highly-valued developers can focus on their strengths, which makes them happier and more productive.
It also makes sense on the company level. Having a DEX team ensures that the product development budget is actually spent on development tasks: creating new features, refactoring product code, what have you. Then you can have a separate, more easily manageable and trackable budget for selecting, vetting and managing all the tools and technologies, sometimes also the processes and best practices, that developers use in their daily work. That sounds nice, too.
But is it really worth all the hype? And how did we even come here?
The past ten years have seen a number of changes that all seem to feed into each other: a shift away from monolith to modular, from waterfall to agile, from in-house to service, from on-premises to cloud… The pace of product development increases and the release cycle intensifies.
Companies are trading Big Infra for Agile Service.
Against this background, the requirement to focus on core goals is not just understandable. It’s essential. No one has the time to spend on extraneous fluff, so we trim it all off by using outside services: software, platforms, and of course databases and data pipelines.
But utilising the ‘as-a-service industry’ generates other flavors of fluff. Not only is there the burden of setting up and managing the technical infrastructure. It also means negotiating and managing subscriptions, maintaining information security, and meeting legal requirements. No doubt there is also a myriad of other tasks that don’t neatly fit under the main headings.
It’s for dealing with all of this that companies are increasingly setting up developer experience teams.
Aiven works with DEX teams all the time. Aiven’s DBaaS services are an integral part of our customers’ cloud stack, and Aiven aims to provide the best developer experience in the business. That’s why Aiven has a ringside view of the benefits that a good DEX can bring.
Your business can’t take you leaving your devs out in the cold. For most companies today, developer teams are what brings the bread and butter to the company table (not alone, of course, but they play a crucial role). It seems like a no-brainer that companies would want to keep them productive, especially since good devs don’t come cheap. In fact, these days, it may be that good devs don’t come to your company at all, since they can pick and choose where they want to work. Would you want an employer that doesn’t care about your well-being and your ability to do your job? No one does.
Yet that’s not what is happening across the board(room). Many organizations are short-changing their developer teams by wasting their time on adminstratrivia or downright blocking their access to the latest, most effective tools by mismanaging infrastructure- and tool-related processes. By doing this, they are missing out on the added value that the teams would otherwise bring.
In a recent study with Aiven, IDC calculated that with more efficient development teams, businesses might be opening the door to an annual benefit of $1.7 million.
Sounds insane? That figure is the annual average benefit seen by Aiven customers, estimated by themselves as the amount they save annually by using Aiven services. Most of that is due to developers being free to do their jobs, instead of maintaining infrastructure or navigating lengthy procurement processes.
When employees are happy, focused and satisfied, the quality and quantity of their output increases. Any employer should know this. (And act accordingly!)
What makes developers happy? Well, many things, of course, most of which aren’t even X-rated. However, when it comes to job satisfaction, the number one factor is being able to do the product development work they were hired to do.
Teams are more productive and efficient when they can focus on creating added value.
“Teams are more productive and efficient when they can focus on creating added value,” says Heikki Nousiainen, Aiven’s CTO. “On the other hand, when they work with real business solutions doing interesting and challenging stuff, without the infrastructure headaches and repetitive tasks, people find their jobs more meaningful.”
Heikki remembers when his former employer F-Secure began to invest heavily in their developer experience. “The productivity really shot up fast. And it only makes sense. If you need a new tool or environment to make progress, and the procurement process takes weeks, it’s bound to slow you down.”
A quick toolkitting process also has another benefit: innovation. “Developers can try out new things more easily. This makes it faster to solve tool issues and brings innovative solutions within reach of your developers.”
With the worldwide shortage of developers, companies are always looking for new recruitment angles. The tools that a developer can work with can prove a powerful incentive to work with your company - even when the company’s products don’t provoke enthusiasm among applicants.
The tools that a developer can work with can prove a powerful incentive to work with your company.
“Companies in the traditional industries, for example, aren’t seen as exciting,” says Ben Laverton, Senior Account Executive who works extensively with Aiven’s customers and understands their needs. “Utilities or insurance, for example. I work with one company who tells me their brand is ‘boring’, according to their developer applicants, but who still manage to pull in serious talent by offering a first-class developer experience with cutting-edge tools and technologies.”
Nousiainen also finds that having a wide but controlled set of tools makes it easier for people to move between teams and projects. “Developers benefit because they can follow their passion, and the company benefits because resources can be targeted where they’re needed,” Nousiainen says.
Besides, the quick turnaround cycle also means that the tools keep pace with product development. “If you release every week, and the process to switch tools takes fifteen weeks, that’s quite a few releases you have to make with a toolkit you know to be sub-optimal,” Nousiainen points out.
DEX is the grease in the gears of your product development process that keeps the wheels turning fast and the whole kaboodle nimble to steer. By centralising the processes around developer tooling, you’re not only making their management more integrated, you’re also keeping that load off the backs of the developers.
And that gives you both happy developers and a happy bottom line!
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