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“If you are in a good culture, you will feel and know it, and it’s sometimes hard to put words on those things.” ~ Wayne Crosby
What is the objective of our focus on Developer Experience? We aim to address various aspects, such as enhancing efficiency, encouraging collaboration, boosting job satisfaction, improving output quality, and fostering innovation and creativity.
The Buzz Around Developer Experience
There have been so many publications on this topic lately. Google “developer experience,” and it will return a list of links to DevX definitions, examples of DevX teams, and frameworks.
DevX is a new spin on prioritizing the investment in people and ways of working. I recall every presentation emphasized a people-first culture four years ago. Still, lately, there has been a surge in the number of articles published about developer experience (a.k.a. DX, DevX, and DevEx).
Why is developer experience becoming more prevalent?
During the previous waterfall and project-based software delivery practices, some have argued that developers were treated like a resource from a factory line. They were often referred to as “resources” by the business, measured by their code output and utilization. It’s great to be recognized as a human being and feel engaged and valued. But do the attributes of DevX apply only to developers or possibly many others on a delivery team? In many cases today, cross-functional delivery teams are delivering value.
I have spent much of my career as a software developer and manager of software development teams, my contributions and output have measured me, and I have measured others similarly. I have worked with previous cultures, tools, and practices, and today’s tools, architectures, and ways of working. More than anyone else, I can appreciate the message and focus on the developer experience.
Attributes of Developer Experience
The term “developer experience” refers to the experience of developers as they do their everyday work, including any difficulties they may encounter.
The attributes of developer experience (DevEx, DX) are as follows:
- Perception of the development infrastructure: How developers perceive the technical infrastructure (e.g., development tools, issue trackers, programming languages, cloud platforms, libraries) and ways of working (e.g., working agreements, processes, and methods).1
- Feelings about work (happiness and engagement): How developers feel about their work, including whether they feel respected, care about it, and feel like they belong in their team.1
- Value of work (purpose and success): How developers value their work, including whether they feel they’re making an impact and whether their values and goals align with the company.1
In addition, a fourth attribute, Onboarding and investment in upskilling: Is how developers value an organization or department that prioritizes the onboarding process for new members and invests in their ongoing skills development.
Here are a few of the initiatives that are driving the developer experience:1
- Reduce developer wait times and interruptions
- Invest in maintaining a healthy codebase
- Make deployments safe and fast
- Empower teams
- Optimize for high work engagement
Developers with high work engagement exhibit persistence, dedication, and a commitment to delivering quality software. They proactively support the organization and consistently produce excellent work when they have the tools, autonomy, mastery, purpose, and a sense of success.
Success Comes From The Team and Team Experience
As of 2023, many organizations have significantly invested in transforming their ways of working through culture, Agile, Lean, DevOps, and cloud technologies. They invested in DevOps and Platform teams that build the capabilities for teams to improve software delivery and the developer experience. It still takes a team to deliver software today. What is so different about developer experience versus quality assurance experience, agile leadership experience, or product owner experience? We should expand the message to Team Experience (TeamX).
I recognize and respect software developers’ specific type of work; it is knowledge work, so developer experience must be acknowledged. However, we need to expand the focus to the delivery team experience, which includes developer experience.
- What if the Quality Assurance Engineer could spin up an ephemeral test environment to test changes and have innovative tools and ways to run performance, exploratory, and chaos testing?
- What if product owners could press the “delivery” trigger in an evolved, highly confident continuous delivery pipeline to deliver features to production or review features in an ephemeral environment?
- Why would we ignore the agile leaders’ need for tools to facilitate team building, retrospectives, sentiment analysis, cycle management, and more?
Most of the “developer experience” aspects relate to the other team roles on a cross-functional team and the team’s overall experience. Therefore prefer to focus on team experience and promote that “teams and team members with high work engagement exhibit persistence, dedication, and a commitment to delivering quality software. They proactively support the organization and consistently produce excellent work when they have the tools, autonomy, mastery, purpose, and a sense of success”.
Treating all workers with respect is important, but for creative work to thrive, a supportive environment must also be provided. I will continue to advocate for team experience (TeamX, TX) over developer experience (DevX, DX), and that developer experience is part of team experience.
Unlocking the Potential of Metrics
As a follow-up to my first post on modern-day metrics, “Finally, Metrics That Help: Boosting Productivity Through Improved Team Experience, Flow, and Bottlenecks,” this post highlights the exciting combination of modern-day insights available today. These insights come from both your delivery systems and the team’s sentiment.
Measuring team experience requires both delivery efficiency (system metrics) and team feedback (sentiment metrics).
System metrics: I have become an evangelist and promoter of today’s system metrics and data insights based on value stream management, the Theory of Constraints, and a mix of flow metrics and DORA metrics as a holistic workflow and measurement to accelerate efficiencies and product and portfolio delivery.
Sentiment metrics: Since 2022, I have increased my focus on sentiment frameworks like the SPACE framework2 and, more recently, the DevEx framework created by Abi Noda, Margaret-Anne Storey (author of SPACE), Nicole Forsgren (creator of DORA), and Michaela Greiler (previously Microsoft Research).3
I have learned that it is not uncommon for organizations to start with system metrics and then realize they can benefit from targeted frequent sentiment metrics.
One unique thing about my experience at my current organization is that in addition to a semi-annual organization-wide employee net promoter score type survey (eNPS), we have been collecting simple team sentiment over many years using a Google Sheet, wherein each team member’s sentiment is recorded at the end of their daily standup comments: How are you feeling today? Positive, Negative, or Neutral.
Wanting to expand on our sentiment feedback, we are looking into creating short, consistent, and frequently delivered surveys in-house using existing tools that provide us with this capability or investing in services with significant experience in this area and the types of questions that bring the best results. As we still learn to master value streams and system flow metrics, we must expand and invest in our sentiment metrics.
Creating and delivering digital products is currently an exciting field. Modern delivery practices, methodologies, and innovative measurement techniques bring positive changes. Two types of data analysis are necessary to evaluate team effectiveness and happiness: delivery system metrics (such as Flow and DORA) and sentiment metrics (measured through surveys).
To remain competitive and succeed in today’s business environment, software delivery organizations must update their delivery practices and adopt modern system metrics and sentiment measurements.
I invite your perspective on my posts. What are your thoughts?
Let’s talk: phil.clark@rethinkyourunderstanding.
- Ari-Pekka Koponen (28 February 2023), The ultimate guide to developer experience, swarmia.com, short URL: bit.ly/468g0q2
- Nicole Forsgren, Margaret-Anne Storey, Chandra Maddila, Thomas Zimmermann, Brian Houck, and Jenna Butler (06 March 2021), The SPACE of Developer Productivity: There’s more to it than you think, queue.acm.org, https://queue.acm.org/detail.cfm?id=3454124
- Abi Noda, Margaret-Anne Storey, Nicole Forsgren, and Michaela Greiler (03 May 2023), DevEx: What Actually Drives Productivity: The developer-centric approach to measuring and improving productivity, queue.acm.org, https://queue.acm.org/detail.cfm?id=3595878