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Developer experience key to Digital Transformation success

Developer experience key to Digital Transformation success

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Atlanta-based Ravi Lachhman, Field CTO at, tells us how the success of Digital Transformation projects can be determined by a CIO’s ability to create a supportive and engaging culture for their engineers.

Ravi Lachhman, Field CTO at

CIOs eager to enable Digital Transformation across their organizations are often surprised to learn just how much influence their company’s developer culture has on the failure or success of those broad initiatives. But as organizational leaders, CIOs also play a key role in creating and nurturing the culture that shapes those outcomes.

A recent report from Harvard Business Review on Maintaining Momentum on Digital Transformation underscores how the quality of the developer experience goes hand-in-hand with Digital Transformation success.

Digital Transformations are particularly challenging because they involve both business evolution and technology evolution in equal measure. They’re not fire-and-forget projects; they require a mindset built on continuous improvement.

To succeed at these mission-critical initiatives, developers must bring an understanding of the broader business objectives as well as technology strategy (and wise architecture decisions) as they implement Digital Transformation innovations.

That expertise is naturally found in veteran developer employees who know and are deeply invested in the business. Therefore, developer longevity within an enterprise is an advantage to Digital Transformation journeys, given the institutional knowledge such developers have cultivated over time.

CIOs need to understand that they have the power to make or break the quality of the developer experience within their organizations – their actions as cultural leaders may be the single most crucial factor in retaining and attracting developer talent.

CIOs must also be aware that the developer experience they nurture directly impacts the organization’s ability to pursue and maintain momentum along their continuous Digital Transformation journeys.

With software engineers serving as the nexus of innovation within so many enterprises, it goes without saying that the developer job market is great for engineers but tough for those trying to hire them.

Given this environment, CIOs must focus on ensuring that veteran developers are motivated, incentivized, provided opportunities for personal growth, and, arguably most important, spared from obnoxious toil.

Developers naturally seek new challenges to evolve their skillsets and expand their domain and technical expertise, in order to both remain relevant and command greater career and financial rewards.

If one CIO’s organization fails to deliver such opportunities, rest assured that another company will.

CIOs seeking to enable effective on-going Digital Transformation must cultivate a developer experience worthy of the talent they wish to retain. Keeping engineers means keeping them engaged and motivated.

With such a developer experience in place, success builds on success, and motivation builds motivation across the Digital Transformation. To support the happiness of their developers, CIOs should allow engineers to rotate regularly across different objectives or workstreams within Digital Transformation projects.

Developers must also be empowered to view and iterate upon their accomplishments quickly. CIOs should also proactively reduce barriers along the path from developers’ raw ideas to their finished products in production.

Accelerating the delivery of products to end-users is beneficial both from a business standpoint and to the developer experience, enabling engineers to quickly iterate on incremental successes or move on to other challenges requiring innovation.

Safeguarding the developer experience also calls for CIOs to keep a close eye on engineers’ stresses. For example, shifting from waterfall to more incremental delivery models such as Agile raises the risk of burnout, adding constant requests for features and shorter ‘sprint’ delivery windows.

Like anyone, engineers have a finite cognitive load, and few enjoy constant context switching.

Much like the ‘fog of war’ in a military context, stressful toil can also set in during the ‘fog of development’ if developers lack situational awareness and face overly complex requirements and processes to get applications into production.

The toil of a poor developer experience such as this erodes confidence and leads developers to seek an exit.

In contrast, CIOs that build a culture safeguarding an excellent developer experience equip developers to deliver innovations with confidence, grow their skills, and, well, enjoy their evolving roles.

For developers, the only constant is change, and the ability to pick up new and evolving skills is crucial for career trajectories. The more positive the developer experience and the lower the barriers of entry for change, the happier developers should be.

Developers’ positive experiences lead to easier hiring or desired talent via word of mouth. When interviewing, developers can often gauge the enthusiasm, momentum, and sense of fulfillment with which an organization’s engineering culture operates.

When an organization cannot successfully recruit innovators, Digital Transformation projects die. To avoid that fate, CIOs must distill motivation and build a culture supporting developers by championing experimentation, iteration, supportive work environments and personal growth.

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