How DX can help to drive business success

By Jessie Jie Xia and Ankit Wal

Digital transformation is essentially at the top of every organisation’s priority. As organisations look for ways to stay competitive in a landscape of disruptive technologies, having a well-thought-out strategic plan is crucial. And a crucial part of the strategic plan includes finding and retaining the right technical talent. However, according to the Harvey Nash Group’s 2021 Digital Leadership report, tech skills shortages are now at its highest, especially in cybersecurity, big data, and architecture. If not addressed, this gap will only widen. 

Many organisations labour under the misconception that their talent is happy where they are. In truth, as observed in surveys, the high demand for tech professionals means that skilled employees are almost always on the lookout for "greener pastures." Research shows that 75% of developers are always looking for new opportunities, with more than half of this number being open to offers. This puts the onus of retaining the best people squarely on their employers.

Keeping the talent pool satisfied

The painful lessons of the great resignation have forced employers to relook at their employee engagement efforts. A lot of what makes a company a great place to work has shifted since the pandemic. While higher pay remains an advantageous factor in attracting talent, it is no longer the only factor that helps retain and motivate employees. Employees increasingly value their day-to-day experience working at an organisation. The ubiquitous normalisation of remote and flexible working arrangements is an indicator of the same.

Having the right tools, the right balance of empowerment and support, and a clear view of how employees’ work delivers value for themselves and the organisation is just as important. Finally, people can give their best only if they feel that the company’s values are aligned with their own. 

In tech, a key aspect of talent retention is the need to focus on the developer experience (DX). A survey from ActiveState reveals that 61.5% of developers spend just four hours or less a day writing code. The rest of their time is consumed with meetings, dealing with friction and wading through bureaucracy. 

CEOs and key decision-makers need to start looking into the ways they can improve DX within their organisations so that developers can find satisfaction in their careers. Whether it’s providing more upskilling opportunities, better tools, or more support where needed, companies that are complacent towards DX, risk losing their talent to competitors.

How your organisation’s C-Suite can influence better DX

Talent retention and great DX don’t come from the human resources department. Instead, talent retention through great DX should be made a first-class strategic priority by upper management. This is because CEOs and C-suites usually have a bird’s eye view of their organisation, putting them in the best position to advocate for any type of change across the organisation.

Look into your organisational structure, and align the tech strategy so that they are in sync. Apply the Inverse Conway Manoeuvre, where technical requirements are taken into consideration for organisational design,  so that team topology and desired architecture are in sync with each other. Not only will this lead to a more productive outcome, but it will also create more autonomous, more enabled, and as a consequence happier teams.

To continuously improve the developer experience - and ultimately, customer experience - apply product thinking to internal developer tools and platforms. There needs to be a mindset change from viewing developer teams as not only collaborators but as internal customers of the platform. An effective internal platform reduces engineering friction, improves developer effectiveness, and unlocks a team's ability to innovate. Writing software is essentially a creative process, and developers highly value an increased ability to creative expression.

Also, focus on the team’s ability to work autonomously. Is there proper documentation in place for new hires to jump on board seamlessly? What about the internal structures? Convoluted workflows, messy handoffs and dependencies will result in a poor developer experience. 

Organisations that still work with a veil of secrecy and bureaucracy in the workplace will find themselves unable to compete in a landscape that rewards innovation and change. Being open and transparent about specific decisions, and clear rationale about why they are being made increase buy-in in employees and reduces frustration towards employers. More than that, it establishes trust within the organisation.

Some DX trends to look out for in the year ahead

In recent years, the concept of Platform Engineering is becoming commonplace. Increasingly, developers are looking to focus their time and energy on work where they can see a direct impact on the business, instead of doing what’s commonly seen as mundane, routine tasks. It has emerged as a leading trend with a majority of organisations expected to adopt platform engineering teams over the next few years. 

Clients are seeking help to build internal developer portals and self-service delivery infrastructures – one example is Spotify’s open-source developer portal platform Backstage, that ties all infrastructure tooling, resources and administrators in one place for centralised documentation. The plugin architecture allows for extensibility and adaptability into different organisations’ infrastructure ecosystems. 

As digital transformation accelerates with innovation and development in transformative technologies like AI, IoT, VR/AT, blockchain, and 5G, there is a secular uptrend in the need to attract and retain tech talent. Significant upskilling and reskilling efforts may be needed to address the talent gap. Providing great DX puts an organisation on the front foot in competing for the currently limited pool of great tech talent. 

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