Innovation starts with the developer experience - here’s why

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(Image credit: / Monkey Business Images)

As companies in every sector race to innovate at speed and digital transformation continues to shoot up the list of boardroom priorities, developers are enjoying an elevated status within enterprises. Business leaders increasingly understand the transformative impact developers have on overall organisational performance and strategy.

In their quest to adapt as quickly as possible, businesses are now focusing on enhancing the developer experience. 

Developer experience inevitably means different things depending on the context. It can encompass the experience developers inside an organisation have building software, how developers outside an organisation interact with external tools like API keys, and just about everything in-between. However you define it, empowering developers by delivering them the best environment to work to their full potential - eliminating barriers and making the process as smooth as possible - accelerates the pace of innovation. 

About the author

Jesper Hyrm is International VP, GitHub

While the continued growth of the DevOps movement has meant that teams are getting better at focusing on their customers and finding ways to develop as seamlessly as possible to deliver maximum value, too many companies are putting friction in their development processes rather than focusing on the developer experience.

Businesses might be waking up to the fact that delivering developers with the optimal conditions to do their jobs is mission critical, how do they go about it?

Help developers stay “in flow” through automation

Most developers just want to write great code and have it make an impact. Quite honestly, the likes of CI/CD, testing, issue management and refactoring are seen by most developers as an annoyance that gets in the way of their “flow”, or optimal creative state where they produce their best work. When you have to constantly switch between environments, it becomes deeply distracting and productivity suffers. 

Automation is the number one way to help developers stay in flow. It minimises distractions by keeping developers in one platform and eliminating the need to keep switching contexts. An integrated environment that maximises automation means developers can focus only on the most complex tasks, and spend more time coding and collaborating. Whether developers are using automation to transform workflows or to code faster, gains in developer productivity are having a material impact. Powerful automation and CI/CD capabilities are changing the way developers work.

Integrate security into the development process

Creating a great developer experience inevitably needs to go beyond providing features that limit interruptions to workflows. It also needs to be able to deliver peace of mind that security is infused into every step of the process. 

Vulnerabilities are typically difficult to identify and they can be extremely time intensive to fix. The reality is that the vast minority of vulnerabilities are not malicious - as many as 83 per cent are caused by human error. By employing tools that automatically scan code before deployment, developers can stop errors making their way into production code. These tools helped developers update 50% more vulnerable packages in 2022 than in 2021. The entire supply chain becomes more secure - and developers can rest easier at night. 

But the ability to fix vulnerabilities hinges on organisations “shifting security left” and making it a collective responsibility. Baking security into every step of the development process, rather than tacking it on to the end, equips business to create more secure software, faster. The bottom line is developers aren’t necessarily security experts – nor should they have to be - which is why it’s vital it is made easier for them to develop more secure code in a frictionless way.

Encourage greater collaboration through innersourcing

Whatever developers are working on, be it a hobby project or mission critical code for multinational corporations, they benefit from working within a community of like-minded people that allows them to share expertise, share code and reuse workflows. 

For businesses, adopting an innersource strategy allows them to effectively create an open source community within their organisation, allowing them to benefit from the practices that have helped the open source community thrive. By encouraging transparent collaboration, they can create better software, faster. And companies can rest assured that any nonpublic code will remain securely within their environment - and only developers with appropriate permissions will be able to contribute. 

I doubt there has ever been a more exciting time to be a software developer. And as the impact of the developer experience on the speed of innovation becomes clearer than ever, businesses around the world should consider what they can do to create the optimal conditions for developers so they can make the most of their passion and skill.

Jesper Hyrm, International VP, GitHub.