When it comes to succeeding with digital initiatives and building high-performing software teams, it is important to deliver top-notch developer experience. A superior developer experience helps attract and retain talented developers. Gartner’s 2021 Software Engineering Leader Survey shows that hiring, developing, and retaining talent ranks in the top three challenges for 38% of software engineering leaders.    

Developer experience refers to all aspects of interactions between developers and the tools, platforms, processes and people they work with, to develop and deliver software products and services. In order to create a superior developer experience, software engineering leaders must provide an environment in which developers can do their best work with minimal friction and maximum flow.

Software engineering leaders working towards improving their team’s developer experience should follow these three actions.

 Improve Developer Journeys

Developer experience extends beyond developer tools and technologies. Building and retaining a high-performance development team starts with a positive onboarding experience. A streamlined onboarding process enables developers to make meaningful contributions much faster, which in turn makes the entire team more productive.

Creating a frictionless developer onboarding experience will improve overall developer experience. For software engineering leaders, it is important to ensure that developers are equipped to get started on day one. Be sure to provide a fail-safe environment that is immune to accidental errors. Create a sense of belonging and camaraderie.

Developer self-service can also improve developer journeys by reducing process inefficiencies and, in some cases, eliminating unnecessary processes entirely. Self-service development workflows can be streamlined through the use of internal developer portals. Developers benefit from accelerated feedback loops, as they enable developers to continually improve code quality and understand what is working and what is not. By establishing feedback loops, developers are able to experiment, measure progress and continuously improve. The feedback helps improve their deliverables, as well as their ways of working. This shortens the time to value, thus providing quicker insight on value delivered from the user’s perspective. 

Optimize for Creative Work

To improve developer experience, software engineering leaders must go beyond optimizing development workflows and provide focus time for deep, creative work along with the freedom to fail and experiment.

A collaborative work environment is a crucial ingredient of developer experience, since software engineering is a team sport and involves multiple team members and teams. Teamwork and collaboration amplify original ideas and shorten the cycle time from idea to production. Collaboration between team members lends emergent properties to the team.

Fostering communities of practice can help create an open and collaborative work environment. Practitioner-led communities are fundamental to open, collaborative and effective learning. People own what they help create and work together to address challenges. Software engineering leaders must encourage their teams to create communities of practice through active engagement, regular activities, member focus, collaborative problem solving and a powerful strategic vision.

Be a connector manager who enables cross-pollination of ideas and skills. Connector Managers create a trusting and transparent team environment that supports peer-to-peer coaching. 

Finally, leverage automation for repetitive tasks to free up time for creative work. Automating away the routine and repetitive aspects of software engineering enables developers to focus on applying their creativity to solving problems. Developers should indulge in ideation, build new solutions, collaborate and communicate with their peers, partners and customers rather than maximizing the time available for writing code. 

Make a Meaningful Impact

Although most organizations focus on improving developer journey, developer experience in the long term goes beyond software development workflows. It involves giving developers the opportunity to make a meaningful impact. 

Foster a culture where developers don’t feel embarrassed to admit a mistake, ask a question, or offer a new idea. Psychological safety is the top predictor of high performance in software engineering teams. A number of organizations have reported that psychological safety  is a key characteristic of a high performing team.