How enterprises can ease the strain on developers and drive digital transformation

By Priya Rajagopal, Director Product Management, Developer Platforms at Couchbase.

  • 1 year ago Posted in

Organisations are reimagining the way they do business and engage with customers by leveraging different technologies to reduce operational inefficiencies and improve customer experience. Recent research indicates that investments in digital transformation are set to grow by 46% over the next 12 months.

But an increase in budgets alone won’t be sufficient for ensuring success, especially when those individuals tasked with driving transformation are under strain. Software developers are integral to an organisation’s digital transformation efforts, yet data shows that more than four-in-five developers (83%) suffer from burnout, with high workloads cited as the primary cause.

Developers play a critical role in exploring, evaluating, implementing, and promoting new technologies to the rest of the business, acting as standard-bearers for digitalisation. It’s therefore imperative that developers have the tools and working environment they need to succeed.

Do development teams have what they need to succeed?

Software developers are in high demand and businesses are struggling to fill vacancies. Fewer developers means less people to share the burden of driving transformation forward, and subsequently burnout occurs. As well as high workloads, inefficient processes and unclear goals and targets are key contributing factors to developer burnout. The impact of this on businesses is clear. According to KPMG, 65% of UK CEOs say they need to address developer burnout before they continue their transformation journey.

In some instances, the siloed nature of organisations has led to significant operational inefficiencies. Some senior IT leaders have reported challenges when it comes to helping development teams, as multiple silos make it harder for them to even recognise the severity of the issue and to be able to take actions, such as redeploy developers from underutilised teams to teams seeking the skills. This lack of visibility means that teams seldom get the support they need.

At a time when organisations are competing to forge ahead in their digital transformation initiatives, the practical impact of these issues is significant. Falling behind is bad enough, but in a worst-case scenario, dissatisfied developers could slow down success, instead of contributing to it.

So where do we go from here?

A lack of visibility, skills, technology, and communication coupled with archaic processes and tools is preventing some organisations from making the most of their development teams. So how can their potential be realised?

Empathy and transparency is important to address the developer burnout issue. Management must set realistic targets for the development team and regularly meet with the engineers to understand impediments and to unblock them. Organisations must foster a culture where engineers can be candid about the risks in meeting deliverables without fear of retribution. There should also be software management tools and processes in place for managers to track the team’s velocity so they can adjust targets accordingly. This could be achieved by de-scoping projects or pushing out deadlines while noting that adding more developers may not always solve the issue. Ultimately, it’s

far more important to deliver a high quality end result, than rushing a product out of the door that is hard to maintain and crippled with technical debt.

The choice of technology stack also has a direct impact on developer agility. Adopting technologies that have a steep learning curve or ramp-up costs will slow things down. While investing in a new programming language or framework may sound innovative, such investments may not be practical, and businesses must consider their community of developers before adopting beta software that hasn’t been battle tested.

On the flip side, it’s important to not fall into the trap of using familiar, legacy software for a task that it isn’t suited for. As a concrete example, the choice of database platform is critical to any digital transformation effort. NoSQL database technology is becoming the de-facto choice for modern application workloads. At the same time, developers continue to expect time-tested and familiar SQL query syntax for querying their unstructured or semi-structured data. They also expect Software Development Kits (SDKs) with idiomatic Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) that simplify integration and database tools that allow developers to debug, visualise and troubleshoot issues. These are all important for developer productivity. As recent research shows, the post-pandemic era requires developers to have “soft skills” which are now critical to business success. These include interpersonal, intrapersonal, and teamwork skills. Enterprises must therefore invest in suitable collaboration tools that enable these skills and ensure distributed teams aren’t isolated and can effectively communicate and collaborate with each other.

Developer experience is paramount

When it comes to digital transformation, plenty is said about improving experiences for customers. But organisations would do well to make their developers’ working experiences as seamless as possible, too. Failure to recognise this and address the issues developers are facing will create a race to the bottom.

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