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Here’s the business case for helping your developers out

(Image credit: Image Credit: everything possible / Shutterstock)

We live in a world that demands digital innovation, meaning businesses in every sector are under pressure to invest in new technology – and quickly. This isn’t an entirely new phenomenon. What’s interesting today, however, is that as technology races ahead, leading us into an exciting world of potential, the desire to push boundaries is catching on.

The infectiousness of digital innovation means that businesses are setting themselves serious challenges. You only need google augmented reality (AR), one of the major digital buzzwords of the day, for the proof. The latest brands to dabble in AR include IKEA, NBA and Britain’s National Theatre. And why not?

As businesses try to do bigger and more exciting things with technology, it’s up to their developers to make it happen. Has there ever been a more exciting time to pursue a career in technology? However, what businesses do not realise is that they are often failing to give their developers the support they need. And the fact of the matter is, in doing so they are holding their own digital development back. To turn things around and get the most out of their developers, it is time to start investigating and understanding what they do.

A day in the life of a developer

The pressure on developers today is palpable. There a number of reasons for this, many of which can be alleviated.

As makers, developers have a habit of saying yes to everything. They want to make more, they want to improve how things are done, and they want to help their business become the best it can be. This isn’t a bad habit in itself. Developers want to achieve things; and, ultimately, the business benefits from this. However, what happens all-too-often is that knowledge gaps in the wider business about technology and the developer’s role means they end up overburdened.

A big pitfall is that employers and colleagues do not understand the complexities of the task at hand. Today, technology has become very accessible. Smart devices can be found in almost every person’s pocket or home. One of the key features of this consumer technology is that it must be easy to use. Gone are the days of complicated instruction manuals. You just turn it on and it works. However, while technology is increasingly common in a consumer sense, people outside the industry generally do not understand how it actually works – nor are they incentivised to try to.

Developers are therefore largely left to their own devices at work, rather than integrating with the rest of the team. The knowledge gap worsens, with the abstract nature of what they do leading to silos and a lack of support, which is terrible for employee morale. It also means the wrong people are given the wrong jobs. Innovative developers become fix-it people, rather than focusing on creative solutions. There is also the issue of complexity management. In development, ideas have a habit of proliferating, with one new thing producing many more. The tech debt accumulates, while developers end up overworked, frustrated and secluded, with no one to turn to air their experiences.

Allowing change to happen

All of these issues are damaging not only for digital development but for business in general. Instead of driving the business forward into a digital future, internal issues are actually preventing exciting things from happening. To turn this around, education is key.

One of the many exciting things about this technological revolution is that all sorts of businesses, big and small, are diversifying their skillsets to retain their relevance for generations to come. Consider the fact that the UK government has just revealed serious plans to boost Britain’s artificial intelligence (AI) technology industry, believing it could release up to £630 billion for the UK economy. Industries including healthcare, banking, automotive and education are all set to benefit. This would never have been dreamed of just a few years ago. Developers are here to make it happen.

The problem is that while digital technology is increasingly embedded across entire businesses, it is rarely the core skillset of the people in charge. This is changing, with a rise in roles like Chief Data Officer (CDO) and Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) joining the now traditional roles of Chief Technology Officer (CTOs) and Chief Information Officer (CIOs), particularly among bigger businesses. It is the responsibility of these individuals to ensure the whole business is informed about and aligned with the digital agenda – but knowledge just isn’t being shared quickly or widely enough.

As someone who co-founded a cloud consultancy to help businesses make more informed technology decisions and alleviate pressure from developers, it would be easy to lament that people who don’t work in the industry often don’t get it. But it is entirely possible to explain technology to non-technical people, as long as you take the time to speak to them in a language that they understand. And the good news for business leaders is that they only need to understand the basics in order to instil a more conscientious culture across the workforce. Armed with the basics, they will understand the different technology touchpoints that people experience and, in turn, help them to understand not only their significance, but who is responsible for them.

In an ideal world, our tech teams will be integrated and valued, just like any other department. I am confident we will get there, and in the meantime smart businesses will be focused on figuring out and aiding their developers to achieve what they can – and want to.

Robert Belgrave, founder and CEO, Wirehive
Image Credit: everything possible / Shutterstock

Robert Belgrave
Robert Belgrave is the founder and CEO of cloud consultancy Wirehive, co-creator of the Alexa Stop! Podcast and chair of BIMA South.