While the number of software developers continues to grow worldwide, the demand for software developers is growing much faster. It seems everything we use or interact with in our daily lives is now “smart,” provides insights, is connected to the cloud, automated or integrated into our home/car/wearable ecosystems. Imagine 20 years ago, convincing your grandparents that the development of their coffee maker would one day require a software engineer. Software development is involved in some, or all, steps of the product lifecycle for nearly every product. Attracting and retaining strong software developers has become increasingly more challenging as the opportunities outpace the supply. Plus onboarding new employees is not only costly but very time-consuming. Efficiently using the technical resources available in a productive manner can overcome these challenges. For these reasons, the Developer Experience (DevEx) has become incredibly more important as we head into 2024.
So what is DevEx? As developers navigate complex frameworks, collaborate on distributed teams, and adapt to emerging technologies, a positive DevEx can make all the difference. The DevEx is the compass that guides innovation, collaboration, and productivity. It encompasses every interaction with tools, frameworks, libraries, documentation, and team collaboration in a developer’s daily life. It’s creating an environment where developers can thrive, be effective, and produce high-quality software efficiently. It’s about an organization’s strategic and purposeful effort to maximize developer productivity and satisfaction. How does CANA cultivate a strong positive emphasis on DevEx to facilitate the experience, quality, and efficiency of product development?
As a remote distributed workforce, collaboration tools are critical to everyday functions at CANA. The DevEx is amplified through access to chat, video conference, screen sharing, hosted code repositories with version control, task management, and defect tracking tools across all devices. Normalizing these tools across projects accelerates the onboarding process for all team members. In addition, the establishment of a regime of routine company and project meetings for sharing status, risks, blockers, and progress ensures issues are addressed in a timely manner.
Platforms, Tools and Environments
Developers spend a large portion of their time leveraging tools, Integrated Developer Environments (IDEs), version control systems, and collaboration platforms in their daily engagements. A significant aspect of DevEx is developing integrated toolsets and systems that facilitate a smooth workflow. At CANA, we leverage cloud services and hosting options in our development environments, Artificial Intelligence (AI) programming tools to increase efficiency, the latest IDEs, and robust collaboration tools for efficient lines of communication.
Documentation is not only essential for historical significance, certification & accreditation, and product delivery but also for efficient onboarding of new team members to software development efforts. At CANA we focus on documentation from the end user down to the last block of code. As cloud services, microservices, and full-stack application development becomes more important, it’s essential that each technical component is fully documented. DevEx ensures that every aspect of the environment is documented so that a new developer can jump in and create their own development environment without pulling critical resources from ongoing work. This encompasses detailed versions, code examples, installation, setup, and configuration.
In rapid-paced, matrixed organizations, such as CANA, the importance of seamless onboarding facilitates the movement of key resources from one project to the next as demand changes. At CANA we strive to utilize core tools and processes across the organization to ensure a common working environment. We also leverage frequent communication across disciplines to ensure all resources are aware of ongoing efforts. Lastly, we leverage the detailed documentation discussed above as a launching point for new developers to strengthen our DevEx.
Automation enhances the DevEx and plays a pivotal role in reducing manual overhead and improving overall efficiency. At CANA a focus on DevOps practices, Continuous Integration/Continuous Deployment (CI/CD) tools, and automated testing streamlines workflows and contributes to honing steady improvement.
A positive DevEx requires opportunities for continuous education and building new skills. The technical landscape rapidly changes and building competitive products requires the workforce to keep in lockstep with the latest advancements. It also provides positive challenges and growth opportunities for developers. CANA has established several opportunities including monthly roundtable presentations, team demonstrations, pair programming, internal research and development, and organic mentorship for our team to share and gain knowledge.
Some tasks and roles are easy to jump in and out of, while others require deep focus and concentration. A five-minute distraction could cost over 30 minutes of progress once a resource is stopped, distracted, and re-engaged at full steam again. Daily distractions such as meetings, notifications, and project fire drills can result in unintended impacts on productivity and efficiency. A constant awareness of the impacts of these distractions can greatly improve the DevEx at a company. One of the adopted strategies at CANA has been the implementation of a deep work day (no meetings) where all employees can focus 100% of their time on forward progress without distraction. This has proven to be extremely productive in all disciplines of the organization.
“Focus on signal over noise. Don’t waste time on stuff that doesn’t actually make things better.”
A positive and successful DevEx must focus on the importance of a quality work-life balance in the development ranks. At CANA, a “work from where you are” culture, flexible hours, and fun initiatives encouraging healthy activities are at the core of our company mission. Monitoring the health and workload of the development resources is essential to a positive DevEx.
A successful DevEx is not easy, otherwise everyone would be doing it. It requires constant attention to continuous improvement and monitoring trajectories to ensure each facet continues to remain in a healthy equilibrium. Although the effort required to build a positive DevEx may seem daunting, the returns on investment are priceless and far outweigh the cost of acquiring new talent. In addition, the efficiency gains through positive morale, structured coding practices, and quality are immeasurable.
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Todd is a Principal Software Engineer at CANA.
“From DevOps to DevEx: Empowering the engineering experience.” Deloitte, https://www2.deloitte.com/xe/en/insights/focus/tech-trends/2024.html#from-devops-to-devex. Accessed 16 December 2023.
“Top 10 Elon Musk Productivity Secrets for Insane Success.” Medium, https://dansilvestre.medium.com/top-10-elon-musk-productivity-secrets-for-insane-success-dae584c88e03#:~:text=Musk%20is%20careful%20to%20filter,t%20actually%20make%20things%20better.%E2%80%9D. Accessed 17 December 2023