Software & Web Development

It's 2014 - Unleash the Developers!

After spending many years as a consultant writing software to solve complex engineering problems, I finally clued-in that a better way to make a living was to create a product that many people would pay for. I was working with a brilliant developer, and our employer at the time offered us what we felt was a pittance of ownership and control to spin off a new product company. We declared confidently: "We can make mistakes just as well as anyone else!" And off we went to do just that. Along the way, we made enough correct decisions to produce something people found useful and were willing to pay for. We were fail-faster hipsters. This experience - along with years in larger-scale enterprise software development management - left me with a deep appreciation of developers and their special place in creating and unlocking business value.

Big or small team, big company or startup, the key to success as a software development manager is all about arming developers with what they need to be successful. Sometimes that is the messy job of clearing away organizational barriers. Sometimes it's getting the right resources in the right places. Sometimes it involves getting developers the time and space to experiment and connect dots in new ways. Sometimes it can be as simple as helping developers understand how their contribution adds to the bottom line of a business.

Enabling developers doesn’t have to translate to a "put the inmates in charge of the asylum" approach. But, when you're living in the age when "software is eating the world", you better figure out how to arm your developers to be the "new kingmakers" and accelerate their ability to do what they do best. In 2014, more than ever, this will be critical to your success. End users want new functionality ASAP, while the companies that produce software face more and more (nimble) competition all the time. Particularly in the fast-moving mobile marketplace, he who hesitates or produces poor quality software – or does both - is lost.

Of course, it's all too easy for smug Silicon Valley types to preach this religion. Back in the real world, development teams and their operations counterparts live within an incredibly difficult set of constraints. Fortunately, thanks in large part to changes enabled by cloud computing, even teams in legacy-bound, security-constrained, highly regulated industries can make real progress toward delivering better software, faster, continuously.

Looking ahead to 2014 here are some New Year’s resolutions to consider. You should resolve to find a project that lets you:

- Use continuous integration (CI) to fully automate testing and release processes, so your developers can push changes with confidence and everyone has visibility into your release pipeline. If you're just starting out, scope the project to a team, finding or establishing clean interface points between upstream and downstream dependencies. Using the right tool, like the highly popular open source Jenkins CI, will help continuous integration to spread organically across teams, as evidence of the benefits propagates.

- Use a public cloud Platform as a Service (PaaS) or Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) to get immediate access to the resources your development team needs to produce better software faster, to stage and test what they produce, and to experiment cheaply. You don't need to push to production in the cloud, but your development process can still get a huge boost, while relieving ops of a burden. Properly secured connectivity to in-house systems, like source code repositories, means your development team can work within your operational constraints while benefitting from on-demand cloud resources.

- Establish a steel thread of continuous delivery. Make sure you address the real constraints in your world - access to existing services and resources, security requirements, change management, operational realities and handoffs. The goal is to keep a team’s deliverable in a release-ready state at all times. This doesn’t mean you have to behave like Facebook, where developers push code to production multiple times a day. You can start small, even using a team embedded in a larger deliverable within a complex release process that is outside of your control. Just get started! Once in place, this steel thread can be extended and reinforced into a cable that supports a real bridge between development, operations, and your bottom line.

If you commit to these resolutions, when you look back on 2014, you’re going to be able to point at specific ways they made your development team healthier, happier, and more productive. You’ll be delivering better quality software faster, and your colleagues in the business and ops areas will be raising a toast to you and your team – and raising expectations again!



Steven G. Harris is Senior Vice President of Products at CloudBees


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Steven G. Harris

Steven G. Harris is Senior Vice President of Products at CloudBees

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