This is a guest post for the Computer Weekly Developer Network written by John Selvadurai in his position as VP of R&D at Iterate.ai, an AI low-code platform provider.
Looking to the past and pointing to what he says is an even brighter future, Selvadurai says that in terms of Developer eXperience (DX) today, we’ve come a long way and the road ahead is even more exciting.
Selvadurai writes in full as follows…
I started out as a software developer many years ago.
To put it in no uncertain terms: no one cared about the developer experience then. Developers like me were expected to just write the darn code, no matter the conditions. If I had any problems, I was supposed to solve them myself…or just put up with them.Oh, how far we’ve come.
Today, if a developer doesn’t have adequate tools to do their job as efficiently and effectively as they can, it’s unequivocally unacceptable. As it should be. Enterprises must focus on how the developer feels and how quick and easy and responsive their tools are.
Developers are choosing which companies they want to work for based on the tools they provide. Those expecting to hire top-shelf developer talent now list their advanced developer tools as selling points and tout their DX commitments in interviews. I’ve spoken with developers who told me they’ve steered their career paths toward particular organisations entirely because they were excited to work with the DX and tooling there. For many, DX has become at least as important as salary and benefits; some say more so.
Is DX overhyped?
DX has had a hot four or five years under the spotlight.
The pandemic really spurred widespread reevaluation of developer team practices and efficiency. As an old-school developer who came up before concern for DX – and before newer, more DX-friendly tools were available – I’m tempted to show my age (er, experience) and say that DX is currently overhyped. After all, I never needed those tools in my day.
But that opinion just doesn’t stand up to the reality.
DX has become vital to enterprises’ success – especially in highly competitive marketplaces where the right DX strategy can directly lead to Customer eXperience (CX) success. The recent example we’re all familiar with is the generative AI explosion. Now every company is trying to bring a generative-AI-powered application to market. Applications that would previously be in development for one or two years are now hitting the market in one or two months—because if you’re not pushing those apps out, you’re not competing. You certainly can’t wait a year or two with generative AI: it’s almost hard to imagine how far the technology will have advanced by then.
From this perspective, DX isn’t overhyped at all. Developer teams without supportive tools and a strong overall developer experience simply can’t match the output of competitors that do have those advantages. For organisations today, that makes valuing DX all the more crucial.
Quantifying DX success
Well-researched investments into developer-preferred DX tooling should deliver immediate and tangible benefits across a number of fronts.
The first result is a faster time-to-market. That’s a clear and quantifiable relationship: more efficient and enjoyable DX directly accelerates the pace of getting new and differentiated applications and features out the door. The quality of applications also improves due to superior DX, as developers can more quickly resolve bugs.
That ability to deliver more polished applications only further improves market success, as teams produce higher quality applications in less time than competitors. As I’ve touched upon, hiring power is influenced by DX as well, giving organisations an edge in recruiting and retaining talent and enabling them to deliver applications backed by that superior talent. Look at the numbers – from application time-to-market, to bug resolution, to hiring success rates – and the ROI case of DX investment should be quite clear.
The lost DX variable: Community
As I see it, the size and strength of the developer community around a particular developer tool is an undervalued and essential aspect of the experience it provides. It’s one of the first checks I make in any vetting process.
How well developers can connect with a community of people working on the same types of issues—and help each other solve problems—is at the core of developer experience. That’s how a strong community makes for better DX: if a developer is stuck, they can always ask questions in community forums to get help and support in resolving issues. That’s why it’s not just the developer tool itself, but also the surrounding community that makes a tool particularly valuable.
I have to come back to generative AI.
If someone asked me about the future of DX one year ago, I’d have talked about something other than generative AI. But with the technology bursting onto the scene, I believe that emerging AI assistants that help developers write code are already beginning to represent powerful additions to DX technology. It’s mind-blowing to think that developers will soon be able to give a generative AI tool all the necessary parameters for an application and have that tool fully build the app to those specifications. Developers will then work with AI to tune and tweak applications and DX will replace traditional coding.
Google, Microsoft, AWS and others all have initiatives moving the world towards this new normal, maybe even within the next year. When that happens, DX will no longer be based on individual tools, but rather on full AI assistant code development systems that developers will use. Individual tools may no longer even remain visible to developers, just as someone driving a car doesn’t think about everything going on under the hood. Developers will drive and steer application development progress, while generative AI keeps the engine running.
DX is changing fast
From the beginning of my career, when no one cared about developer experience, to its current decisive competitive importance, to the anticipated generative AI-led transformations of the near future, DX is advancing at an accelerating clip. Why? Because the comfort and quality enabled by a team’s DX is synonymous with the pace and quality of the applications it delivers to the market. The clear opportunities enabled by championing DX are more than enough for me to put any older-school biases aside, especially looking at what’s on the horizon.
Iterate.AI tweets at @IterateAI