Over the past few years, we have heard a variety of strategies succeed in the dispute for how best to approach software development. A few years ago, it was common to use the term API-first. More recently, the enthusiasm was with AI-first. As a developer, I suggest adopting a new strategy. A strategy that does not exclude any other that is already in progress. A strategy that maintains the same suffix as those already mentioned, but that adds the human factor to the word that comes before it. Developer-First.
Right now, you might think I'm looking to make developers the centerpiece of software development. If that was your impression, don't worry. You’re right. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mean that a product should not put customers' needs as the main reason for its development. Note that I used the term software development, not product development because I consider that the problem to be solved is already clear at this stage as well as it is also clear that the solution involves software. The end remains to offer a solution to someone's problem. What is suggested here is how to better deal with the means. Software development.
When we realize that software development (still) requires developers, it is evident that the level of developer engagement directly impacts the final result of the software produced. The less are dedication and commitment, the less are the chances of a great outcome. Therefore, it is essential that engagement, usually high at the beginning, does not disappear along the process. So which ingredients would favor developer engagement?
Software that doesn’t work doesn’t solve anyone's problem. Precision is an unquestioned requirement of any product that is on the market. But it is also an essential requirement to maintain the engagement of those who develop it.
If releasing a new feature feels like taking us one step ahead on the game, stop everything to fix a bug feels like getting us two steps back. Fixing bugs means investing energy just to keep in the same place. If bugs destroy the reputation of software outside the company, they undermine engagement inside it.
Developing the most precise software in the world wouldn’t be applaudable if it never got shipped. From the moment a solution is figured out until the moment it’s available to the customer, there is the development time. The shorter is that time, the faster we can check whether the proposed solution solves a problem or not. And the faster that feedback loop is, the more developers keep engaged with the software they are building.
Another characteristic of flow activities is that they provide immediate feedback. They make it clear how well you are doing. After each move of a game you can tell whether you have improved your position or not.
Whether you have to remember to turn something on/off in a specific moment of the day or having to write the same piece of code for every new feature developed, you will get bored very fast. And when boredom gets in, engagement gets out. Repetitive tasks must be automated as well as every common pattern in code must be abstracted.
If it doesn’t make sense to launch very fast something that doesn’t work, it’s also not viable never to ship something because we’re not sure it works properly. Precision and Productivity are two ingredients that perfectly balance out each other. Developer-first is an approach that values high developer engagement. And high engagement only happens when we can build very fast, something that works very well.
Adopting this strategy doesn’t demand the seal of any manager or director. It’s only on us, developers. Therefore, when you have to take any decision along with the software development, ask yourself: How does it collaborate to make our software more precise? How would it make us write tests more easily? How does it make our code more understandable? How does it allow us to write less code? How it will speed us up? If the decision taken is not able to satisfy one of these questions, great are the chances it’s not Developer-first.