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One of the great ironies of modern businesses is that they ask developers to create slick, seamless experiences for their customers but expect them to do so using clunky systems and outdated processes. According to Devada's "2019 State of the Developer Report," two-thirds of developers say that managing legacy systems and technical debt stands in the way of their productivity.
Meanwhile, the strategic importance of development teams continues to grow, with nearly 70% of developers revealing that upper management wants them to be more productive. Demand for skilled individuals has never been higher either, with the number of open positions growing steadily since 2014 and analyst houses like Forrester suggesting that COVID-19 has made developers indispensable to the modern organization.
The downside of this dichotomy is that many developers are unhappy in their jobs. Dissatisfaction with their assignments and the technologies they use leads to a drop productivity and inspiration. Worse, it causes teams to lose sight of their ultimate goal, which is to deliver better, more effective customer experiences that are crucial to their company's success.
This is particularly concerning in the age of COVID-19, when digital experiences account for nearly all of an organization's customer interactions and a bug in its website or mobile app can be the difference between success and failure.
There is a clear business case for improving the developer experience. Each company will have its own approach, but here are five critical mistakes to avoid.
1. Remember that great UX isn't just for customers
Better design doesn't just work better, it feels better. A well-designed development platform makes developers happy because it allows them to stay "in the flow" and focus on the problem at hand, instead of fighting clunky tools, black box bugs or manual processes. A well-designed development platform feels seamless and consistent, rather than the sum of poor integrations made over time.
That said, development platforms have improved dramatically in the past few years, offering a look and feel on par with the best consumer platforms. They are also increasingly open to third-party developers, which means users can use the same technology as their vendors and enjoy a more consistent user experience. Better yet, open source is critical in the development world, allowing for greater collaboration in building these platforms, and better results for vendors and users alike.
2. Avoid backward integrations
It sounds obvious, but the only way companies will adopt new ways of working is to stop looking backward. Not only have development platforms become slicker and more powerful, plugging new technologies into legacy systems is also time-consuming and tends to offer minimal payoff.
That said, some developers have no choice but to use legacy software, which is why many companies have invested in technologies that bridge legacy, on-premises and cloud systems. This approach is ideal because it allows for constant evolution without forcing the organization to transform every element of its IT overnight. Managed cloud services have proven especially popular, providing users with cloud-native developer capabilities while taking away the burden of IT management.
3. Stop paying a tax on bedlam
Companies pay a steep price for using a bedlam of systems for their development needs. Teams spend an inordinate amount of time just making sure these technologies work together, time that would be better spent on business imperatives and strategy. And, like property taxes, this issue recurs year after year.
That's why leading teams have moved away from complex integrations and toward platforms. Development teams can pick a platform as their primary suite of capabilities and, because we live in a world of open APIs, they can plug in solutions from other vendors or customize their system to suit their specific needs with a best of breed setup.
4. Make space for learning and development
Just like there is a cost to using complex systems, there is a cost to constant evolution. Technology changes each day, and it is up to business leaders to ensure developers feel prepared to work with new methodologies, tools and platforms. Add to this the complex new responsibilities being placed on development teams, from the ever-evolving security landscape to GDPR and other data compliance, and the importance of education cannot be overstated.
Thinking back to the rise of mobile, cloud and artificial intelligence, companies rapidly went from the position of "why do we needs this" to "why don't we have this yet?" A healthy organization will allow developers to sharpen the saw, offering them internal resources to do their research and giving them head space to explore new technologies themselves.
5. Don't underestimate the power of community
As with any team, developers value collaboration and the opportunity to learn from each other. Referring back to Devada's developer report, 94% of developers say they actively participate in at least one developer community, and 88% expect IT vendors to set up an online community of their own.
The value of community extends beyond troubleshooting problems and technical support. Collaborating with people outside their organization brings diverse perspectives to the way developers approach the challenges of today. This is particularly important in legacy companies that want to avoid the trap of investing in new technologies without adapting the way they work to match.
As a final point, it is impossible to ignore the effect of COVID-19 on employees' expectations. Companies around the world have found creative ways to facilitate remote work with new technologies and processes, and development teams should be top of the list for organizations that want to transform their digital offering for this new era of customer experience. The time to act is now, before we reach a breaking point.
About the author
Jonathan Roeder leads the Experience Cloud Developer Experience organization at Adobe, overseeing its mission to empower the world's best customer experience community, ecosystem and developer platform. Roeder's passion is to create innovative technical products that empower developers, business users and surrounding communities. In the early 2000s, Roeder built web-scale SOA services for developers and low-code tools for content authors at Dell. Most recently he led architecture and product management functions to bring multiple deeply extensible SaaS offerings to market, across commerce and AI.