Understanding developers to unlock their potential for innovation

Digital transformation is set to dominate business strategy this year according to Forrester, with CEOs increasingly looking to their CIOs to act as strategic partners in this process

To truly be successful in the effort, however, organizations are heavily dependent on their developers. MongoDB recently undertook some research with Stack Overflow, the largest, most trusted online community for developers, to better understand the issues and opportunities facing today’s developers. The results show that while developers are ready to be the new enterprise kingmakers, business leaders still have a ways to go in order to understand the realities of the developer role and how best to set up developers to drive a competitive edge in their organization.

The research, which surveyed more than 1,000 developers worldwide, revealed that despite developers being seen as key drivers of enterprise innovation – with 68% of respondents viewing developers as the primary drivers – companies are failing to capitalize on their skills and abilities. Many (33%) believe their companies aren’t gaining a competitive advantage because they don’t understand the technical realities and opportunities that developers face.

What’s holding back developers?

Findings revealed three main challenges developers are dealing with that hold them back from fully delivering as innovators:

  1. Spending too much time in the wrong places: 41% of a developer’s working day goes towards the upkeep of infrastructure, instead of innovation or bringing new products to market. A fifth of their time (20%) is spent in meetings or administration. Developers feel that if an organisation fails to appreciate the nuances of their role, it’s easy for them to be pulled into non-productive work that creates little or no value for the wider business.
  2. Current job demands are heavy: 58% of developers work more than eight hours a day, 32% work weekends, and 23% fail to take all of their vacation days. The previous point plays a part in this, with developers working extra hours to catch up after wasting time on managing their infrastructure.
  3. Developer’s dilemma: Today’s application users flat out expect applications to integrate with other services to provide a richer, more complete experience. That could be the ability to make payments through Stripe or PayPal, or to log in faster with Facebook ID and send text messages from within an app via Twilio. But the monotonous, backend coding that is required to provide this improved user experience is taking the focus away from the frontend experience: 41% of a developers’ time building a new application is spent connecting to backend services, rather than on developing features to makes their applications unique.

What’s more, while well over half of respondents to the survey claimed to understand the cost and productivity benefits of cloud-hosted Database as a Service (DBaaS), with half noting that it led to an increase in their productivity and time to market, only two fifths of developers said they currently used cloud services. A similar number cited their company’s security regulations as the primary barrier to further adoption of cloud within their organization.

Coding with one hand behind their back

As businesses everywhere undergo a form of digital transformation, they are turning to software for a competitive edge. Business leaders are increasingly recognising the value developers provide in keeping their companies competitive, but it’s clear that a worrying disconnect still exists between businesses and developers about the best approach to achieving this.

Developers drive innovation, bring new products to market and keep businesses agile, but they can only do so when they’re able to devote their time to rapid iteration. If the technologies with which they are provided are hindering their productivity and creating a large maintenance burden, developers are left coding with one hand behind their back. To truly capitalise on the innovation they’re able to provide, therefore, developers need intuitive technology that will prove natural to work with rather than acting as a hindrance to the development process. Only when business leaders can grow their understanding of how their development teams operate, and how to equip them to work most effectively, will they be able to fully provide a competitive edge in a software-driven world.

About the Author

This article was written by Andrew Morgan, Product Marketing Principal at MongoDB. Andrew is part of the MongoDB product team, responsible for building the vision, positioning, and content for MongoDB’s products and services, including the analysis of market trends and customer requirements. Before joining MongoDB, Andrew was director of product management for MySQL at Oracle – with a particular focus on distributed, highly available databases. Prior to Oracle, Andrew worked in software development for telecoms with a focus on HA, in-memory, real-time databases.