CWDN series: DevEx - Stack Overflow: Cracking the productivity conundrum

This is a guest post for the Computer Weekly Developer Network written by Joy Cicman Liuzzo in her role as VP of Product Marketing at Stack Overflow.

Liuzzo writes in full as follows…

Many developers would admit they are at their happiest when empowered to do what they do best: build code efficiently and effectively. However, there has often been a consistent stumbling block, productivity. Building a productive workforce has been a tough nut to crack in recent years, considering macro factors such differing workstyles of teams under hybrid work models, the increasing shortage of those with key digital skills and, of course, the rapid evolution of generative AI tools.

Unfortunately, there is no silver bullet to solve this productivity conundrum overnight. It instead demands a harmonious blend of structure, time management, leadership style and effective technology to deliver both developer productivity and satisfaction. But, the first step is to democratise access to information.

Breaking down silos

Breaking down silos will build morale and close knowledge gaps. Knowledge silos are wasting developers’ time and company resources, in turn impacting the developer experience (DX). In fact, according to our 2023 Developer Survey, almost half (49%) of UK respondents said that knowledge silos were preventing them from getting ideas across their organisation with three quarters (75%) of professional developers stating that they encounter them at least once a week.

Similarly, over half of UK respondents (58%) agreed that waiting on answers to questions often causes disruption to their workflow. A further 58% admitted that they lose up to an hour a day answering questions they have previously answered, leading to frustration, wasted time and inefficient workflows.

These knowledge siloes present a key challenge between developers and general staff who may require specific expertise or resources to solve a complex situation, but do not have access to the resources or guidance required to solve it. This can often place increased reliance on a smaller pool of experts, leading to slower resolution times and heightened annoyances.

The resolution is better collaboration. Organisations that cultivate a collaborative culture between cross-functional teams and provide platforms for effective communication will be able to foster the right environment where developers remain engaged, motivated and – most importantly – empowered to deliver results.

Continuous learning is key

Developers thrive in environments where they can continuously learn and grow. In fact, data we collected in December 2022 showed that almost half (46%) of technologists would consider leaving their current jobs due to a lack of learning opportunities. Moreover, 37% of professional developers code outside of work or from self-paced online courses to help enhance their professional development.

Liuzzo: AI is on the rise, but many developer standards stay the same.

Boosting the availability and quality of learning opportunities is not only key to keeping talented developers happy in their place of work, but also critical to attracting and retaining fresh talent – a key challenge for businesses right now.

In order to create the ultimate DX, businesses need to address developers’ need to learn. This requires them to invest in resources, onboard the right leaders and develop a culture which nurtures progression, peer assessment and the opportunity to expand skill sets.

Proven languages and technologies aren’t going away anytime soon. This year’s Developer Survey even showed that JavaScript, TypeScript and HTML/CSS were selected as the three languages developers want to use next year. However, the rise of generative AI and other emerging technologies are piquing the interest of even the most experienced.

AI & the productivity puzzle

With 34% of UK developers currently using AI tools in the development process and a further 24% planning on doing so in the future, AI is rapidly becoming a mainstay in the developer sphere. With most having now experimented with AI tools in one form or another, the developer community admits that AI coding tools can help to elevate their performance and DX.

As has been mentioned throughout, there is a strong link between productivity and performance. Data shows that 32% of developers admit AI tools increase their productivity, 25% say it speeds up their learning and an additional 25% feel it gives them greater efficiency with their work. AI tools can help reduce the likelihood of coding errors, improve the accuracy of code and ultimately lead to more reliable software and increased application performance.

Whether it’s expediting manual and repetitive work, accelerating updates to existing code or boosting collaboration, the benefits AI brings are clear to see. As the technology in AI continues to evolve, it is likely these coding tools will have an even greater impact on both developer productivity and overall experience.

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