The Evans Data Corporation recently revealed that there are approximately 26.9 million developers worldwide in 2021. The Developer Experience (DX) refers to your developers day-to-day existence during various processes such as adding features to the app, fixing bugs, reviewing code or meeting testing objectives. To dive into all the layers of the developer experience, check out this preceding article first, Defining the Developer Experience.
With the increasing complexity of cloud-native architectures and solutions, developers deal with a comprehensive range of components including client libraries, SDKs, frameworks, open source code, supporting tools, API, technologies and cloud services within their pipelines. Developers utilize these components to evaluate applications, maintain infrastructure, make enhancements, fix bugs, add necessary features, handle disaster recovery, and more. Accordingly, all these processes, tools and technologies can have a resounding impact on their Developer Experience while working on a project.
A negative developer experience may lead to protracted development, while an enhanced experience often results in better performance, experimentation, and innovation. The benefits of improving the DX are similar to those that align with adopting a DevOps culture too. Indeed, the steps we outline below are synergistic with the adoption of DevOps to transform culture and technical practices for your organisation. By striving to improve your team’s developer experience you can:
- Accelerate innovation
- Streamline deployment
- Improve collaboration
- Increase efficiency and productivity
- Reduce failures
- Accelerate disaster recovery time
- Enhance job satisfaction
Here are a few ways to improve DX during your SDLC life-cycle.
1. Keep Momentum from Onboarding to Project Work
Onboarding is a crucial step to get right for all companies. Around 90% of newly hired developers analyze the company’s culture, management and processes in the first six months to decide whether they will stay or leave their job.
Positive engagement is an important factor in the first few months for any onboarded developer because it supports them when forming a bond with leadership and other team members of their project. By providing a structured plan to your new employees that will provide support beyond the initial onboarding and well into project work, you can improve the start of the developer experience.
Build a strong foundation by assigning small specific tasks and duties slowly that onboard a developer onto project functions without throwing them into the deep end so that they can develop momentum for broader project work. Once the developer has established connections with the team, and she is engaged with her assigned tasks while holding on to strong fundamentals, then it becomes much easier to carry momentum into other important project stages. Moreover, support developers to interact with their project managers through bidirectional feedback. A continuous feedback loop is not just an excellent automation tool but a cultural approach to ensuring good communication.
2. Support Newly Onboarded Developers to Keep up Momentum
Onboarding developers within ongoing projects often becomes a leading cause of frustration for developers. The processes are sometimes complex for these developers and they totally lose their motivation. They are unable to find a starting point that impacts their developer experience.
Some projects also lack proper documentation due to which developers are unable to figure out all ins and outs of a project. Developers should be aware of a few parameters before they start working on the inherited project. These parameters include:
- Proper understanding of how project code works
- Know-how of the value of code and product
- Understanding of tools and processes within development cycle
The constraints that disturb the fundamental understanding of the project will always lead to bad developer experience (DX). As a result, developers may start working on the project, but it will make collaboration hard due to all technical hurdles within the project.
3. Improve Workflows and Feedback Loop Downstream
There are a number of ways to improve development workflows. These improvements are pertinent to developing a strong organisational culture, supporting productivity, and aligning complex components in a development pipeline that can directly affect the developer experience. Here are a few points to consider to streamline downstream workflows and incorporate feedback loops to facilitate continuous improvement.
Feedback loops also hold great significance as they act as the counterparts of agile methodology. It allows maintaining proper communication during the development process, gathering valuable feedback from development teams and finding major areas for improvements.
The feedback loops should be kept short to an extent that they are easy to test and leave feedback upon. The shortened feedback loops allow developers to focus on the current task and prevent any context switching. Thus, they remain more productive, customer value remains their priority, and everyone knows what is required and how it will be achieved.
Quality Assurance at Each Stage in the Development Pipeline
A typical development pipeline, between one or two devs or whole teams of developers, can incur a number of small human errors. However, small problems that remain unaddressed in the workflow downstream will snowball and cause larger issues further down the pipeline. Bug fixing and troubleshooting can have a major impact on the DX so it is important to run quality assurance tests at regular stages in the pipeline to avoid future issues.
Using Agile Methodology
Agile project methodology has become a popular way for development teams to set small achievable goals for product teams that directly feed into larger projects, allowing them to see progress and feel accomplishment.
The Sprint is a central component of Agile, which helps break a large project into smaller, manageable tasks, usually completed at a fast pace. Tasks can be prioritized and planned more easily if they are divided into two-week intervals than when they are mapped out over larger periods of time, which can make progress feel slow and unachievable.
Active Code Reviews
With high pressure release deadlines and market demands, code reviews can be overlooked in the dev pipeline in an effort to push features to deployment. However, it is important to find bugs at an early stage and fix them in the codebase as part of the quality assurance work proposed above. The code review process might be automated or accomplished by peers which can also improve knowledge sharing, create a team of multi-skilled workers, and a Devops culture of learning. This stage can also be used as a point to leave valuable feedback for other developers.
Use Processes & Style Guides
Other than agile methodology, implementing code style guides and documentation for processes can provide valuable team insights for aligning developers on task execution, code quality and task output. A proper documentation of processes in the form of style guides can help remove many constraints and confusion from development. Providing alignment on such levels can also streamline development and productivity. Check out this code quality article here for a good way to implement style guides: The Importance of Code Styling Guides.
4. Leverage Clear Process and Project Management Techniques
A great developer experience is underpinned by collaborative efforts using a solid approach such as the Agile methodology. Agile methodology allows organizations to continuously monitor requirements, plans, and results to iterate and improve based on this feedback. This continuity of feedback can support instant improvement actions at every stage of the development cycle.
To implement Agile methodology, organizations also need a supporting task management framework. Kanban is the popular framework inherent to implementing the Agile and DevOps methodology. Kanban supports Agile principles of reducing work in progress, packaging tasks into small achievable batches, and provides complete transparency to everyone in the team.
Use Kanban Boards to provide full visibility on work in progress. These visual boards are really helpful for development teams to keep up with Agile methods. Horizontal lists and task cards categorize work based on their priority levels.
5. Empower Autonomy, Don’t Impede It
For a positive developer experience, developers need time and space for creativity to work to their fullest extent. Autonomy can be powerful on an individual and full team level to adopt.
In a negative DX, developers can struggle around micro-managed constraints for making schema changes, purchasing tools or hardware or make any changes within organizational processes to release products. These limitations are often set by organizations that do not allow autonomy. Developers can feel cornered without freedom that can undermine their developer experience. Autonomy is often undervalued, and developers should have enough freedom to make improvements in the product without breaching certain limitations.
6. Support with Appropriate Tools and Products
Developers need both hardware and software products all along their development pipeline to incorporate the best practices without making any mess. These products might be commercial or open source development tools used for specific tasks.
Therefore, organizations should allow developers to investigate and leverage tools whenever necessary. The developers should be allowed to integrate certain tools for CI/CD pipelines to simplify, automate or streamline the necessary processes.
The Developer Experience is a huge contributing factor to organizational efficiency and product outcome. If developers are well supported in process and code, then it will significantly increase their productivity. Also, use of the Agile methodology framework, freedom to innovate and leverage proper support from the right tools is really empowering for all developers to come up with better ideas and stay motivated.
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