Leaders can't stop talking about the developer experience. For good reason. A good developer experience establishes a strong cultural foundation, increases the likelihood you maintain top talent and drives increased velocity of software delivery.
Gartner recently released a report titled A Software Engineering Leader’s Guide to Improving Developer Experience in which they lay out their own concepts for providing a positive experience for your teams. These include holding space for creative work, assuring your work is part of the wider development community, and streamlining workflows.
The key structural factor to both Gartner’s report and your organization’s developer experience is communication. From the moment a new employee joins your team throughout their entire career, the essential way to keep them satisfied and productive is communication.
What makes a great developer experience?
Communication is more than daily stand ups and slack messages. It’s assuring new hires have proper login information. It’s strengthening feedback loops to reduce lag time. It’s building camaraderie through mentor programs. Every aspect of the developer experience can be improved with deeper communication
Onboarding and beyond - The moment an employee accepts your offer, communication needs to begin so they can hit the ground running with their onboarding process. Assure they have the necessary hardware and software credentials before day one and provide necessary documentation and training videos to shorten ramp time.
When an employee is brand new, it can be extremely time consuming to figure out how to get necessary access if it’s not provided for them initially. These hours can be spent learning your processes if they have proper access from the jump–thus leading to greater developer productivity faster.
Software safety nets - Incorporate a high frequency of code reviews and establish approachable guidelines for your code builds. When questions arise during the code reviews process, be hard on the problem and not the employee.
Use developer insights platforms that provide instant feedback about where code is sitting for long periods of time to better understand bottlenecks. This simplifies the audit process and offers data-backed answers as opposed to finger pointing.
Optimize feedback loops - Speaking of feedback, work to build out frequent feedback loops that incorporate your entire team. Allow new hires to contribute as quickly as possible, sharing their prior expertise and injecting new ideas into the processes. Focus on DORA metric-style sprints so you can develop, test, debug, and commit more frequently. This increases the amount of communication by default while decreasing the size of any potential errors that need to be resolved.
Hold space for creative work - Enable the right type of collaboration through practice and allow developers to spend time on non-work specific code. Build out hackathons to drive cross-team collaboration to strengthen culture and communication. Work to automate undifferentiated tasks away, creating even more focus time opportunities. In software development, just like other creative tasks, the end product is not directly dependent on the time spent working on that product. Rather it’s the amount of quality time spent—and that quality comes from creativity and a positive developer experience.
How do you develop a developer experience?
Not every developer or team problem can (or should) be solved with technology. Many elements will be driven by organizational culture (which improves through increased communication as we know). However, the right tech tools can and should be used to build culture and communication throughout developer experience from onboarding to production.
Increasing the speed of your software delivery and the overall satisfaction of your employees are both essential aspects of continued growth in the modern tech world. Thankfully, they are two sides of the same coin. Driving improvements in your development process goes hand in hand with improving the experience of your developers.
Your developers matter as do their day to day interactions with your organization on both a micro and macro level. Providing them with the tools they need to feel valued in their work will also result in higher value code for your organization.
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