“A developer is an organism that turns coffee into code.” I still laugh when I see that quote as it reminds me of my hardcore developer days, when my cube always seemed to be directly next to the coffee machine and caffeine was management’s way of ensuring we had the energy to develop well into the wee hours of the evening.
What is developer happiness? I like to believe it hasn’t changed dramatically over the years. It’s about giving developers the right tools and the freedom to do what they do best—produce meaningful code. That means reducing distractions so they can meet or beat expectations and timelines, ultimately driving revenue for the organization.
I trust your company is not in the practice of molding reusable human coffee filters. But are you doing everything you can to help your developers be as satisfied and productive as possible, or are you taking the “necessary” steps to ensure they are buried in context-switching hell?
If the latter is your aim, read on to learn about five guaranteed ways you can totally kill developer productivity.
Saddling Developers With ‘Plumbing’ Work
Companies frequently look at developers primarily as technical resources instead of true innovators, so they get saddled with plumbing work. In DevOps and continuous delivery (CD), that’s writing a lot of ad-hoc scripts to string together pipelines, define infrastructure and manually create deployment plans. If your company is on the road to cloud adoption, it’s imperative to get unnecessary scripting under control because things only get more complicated as you start to incorporate the many different cloud platforms and services that are available.
Making Developers Deal With Security After the Fact
A fail-safe way to kill developer productivity is to make them deal with security after a release has left development. Too often, they first build code, QA then tests it and finally someone from security checks it to make sure there are no holes well after the code has been written. If security problems are found after coding is done, the release is halted and must go back to the developer to fix. This often occurs either just before the production release or, worst case, just after. In either case, not only does it take longer to resolve the problem, it also prevents the developer from moving on to the next big thing.
Expecting Them to Chase Down Features and Status Requests
Because development pipelines are often not integrated with the higher-level CD pipeline, those outside of development have no way of seeing the status of features, deployments and releases. Understandably, their only option is to ask developers to provide status information or call a status meeting which, of course, are additional interruptions that divert them from feature development. Developers don’t like it, and it doesn’t exactly help anyone else in the pipeline be more productive, either.
Bogging Developers Down With GUIs
GUIs are a great democratizer in large organizations. They offer a user-friendly way for people across the company, regardless of technical know-how, to access the information they need to be productive. But many developers see them as a waste of time. And while even the most GUI-resistant developer needs them every so often, they are not their preferred way to work.
Taking Away Their Favorite Tools
Standardizing your software delivery process is a must to increase efficiency, but standardizing on tools is not. Taking away their favorite tools is highly recommended only if you’re keen on decreasing developer satisfaction.
What are the Alternatives?
Managers and leaders can help developers by taking as much of these mind-numbing tasks off their plates as possible. They can do that by automating the release process and integrating CI pipelines into the CD pipeline. Doing so allows everyone to plug in to what’s happening in development without having to interrupt developers, and they can continue to use their beloved tools and simply connect them into the release pipelines.
It’s also important to standardize most of your operations work upfront—infrastructure, provisioning, compliance, security. All this advance work will allow developers to consume environments on-demand and just deploy without extensive scripting or re-scripting for changes and maintenance.
Keep in mind, if you shift security left, closer to the development process, you need to automate it. Otherwise, it becomes someone’s manual task—a developer, DevOps engineer or security person—and that will slow down the delivery process. For example, SAST test and SCA scans can be automatically run on every check-in. DAST tests can be automated to run after each build. This way, any security holes are caught as early as possible, while the code is still fresh in the developer’s head.
Finally, reduce the amount of work developers need to do through GUIs. Give them a way to kick off releases from their respective CI pipelines and the ability to define release pipelines—infrastructure, configuration, security and so on—in code.
Coffee Machine or Barista?
Doing these five things—relieving developers of unnecessary scripting, standardizing compliance requirements and security checks upfront, reducing the need for developer-provided status updates, enabling them to work in code and allowing them to continue to use their favorite tools—will make the difference in whether your developers feel like the office coffee machine or a master barista.