The changing role of the developer: three trends that will transform developer relations


By Matthew Groves, Senior Product Marketing Manager and Developer Advocate at Couchbase.

The pandemic created new challenges that forced organisations to prioritise projects that enabled online/web interaction, and to do so quickly. This momentum will continue, and could lead to significant disruption and innovation across all industries.

Developers’ roles have also changed. Developers collaborate with more stakeholders, manage more complex environments, and have an increased amount of influence on decision making. They have become invaluable to the organisations they work for, so managing developer relations (DevRel) is critical. DevRel means prioritising relationships with developers and having conversations – ultimately helping to keep developers satisfied during challenging business environments.

Future-proofing architectures

Whether it’s buying groceries, exercising, or arranging childcare, consumers rely on digital interaction in some form. New research finds that the typical internet user spends more than 40 percent of their time online – and this will likely increase. Organisations must continue to invest in new and emerging technologies that will help both IT and development teams to power the applications that businesses and consumers rely on. This includes future-proofing architectures as much as possible by using technologies that enable agility, adaptability, and scalability.

Here are three trends that could shape IT and the teams building it:

1. Adding value through communication

DevRel is still a relatively new field. Although it’s unclear what awaits down the line, we do know that there is a huge amount of value in leaning on DevRel to provide a developer’s perspective when making product and marketing decisions. Developers have an increasing influence on decision making, as they are the people who have to live with the decisions being made.

Many DevRel teams are struggling to unlock the true value of communication, as they are often too focused on outbound communication, rather than inbound listening. However, there is now an opportunity to open the conversation between developers and the C-suite, creating a situation where communication can go both ways. By creating a continuous, mutual relationship with developers, organisations can listen to their feedback and use it as a guide to improve and streamline processes and build the features that developers want.

2. A strong, but wide skillset

DevRel teams must be equipped with as wide a variety of skills and experience as the audience they are trying to reach. A knowledge of the wide variety of programming language ecosystems – NET, Java, Python, PHP, etc – is also useful to reach each of these different communities. A DevRel team with a broad range of specialties will be best placed to keep developers loyal to their organisation during an uncertain business landscape.

3. Qualitative, not quantitative

The elephant in the room for DevRel teams is always metrics. Questions that are frequently raised include: how do we measure that what we’re doing is having an impact? How do we justify our budget to leadership? While reaching broad metrics such as “time spent on page”, ‘hits’, or ‘likes’ can help to measure and track success, these aren’t the only things that add value to organisations.

DevRel teams must realise that ultimately the biggest impact they can have is qualitative, not quantitative. DevRel helps to make developers a special audience, allowing them to take more control over the software, collaborate with more stakeholders, and maintain a stronger relationship with the organisation they work for.

Making a fresh start

As firms continue to prioritise modernisation efforts to support the growing need for distributed cloud architecture, the importance of developers will only get stronger. Organisations must future-proof their architecture to ensure flexibility, scalability, and agility. And while upgrading IT infrastructure is one piece of the puzzle, maintaining strong developer relationships plays an even more critical role in ensuring that organisations are prepared for an uncertain future.

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