Software development is a critical driver of global macroeconomic growth, and will continue to propel growing businesses despite economic headwinds. As we look ahead to 2023, the developer experience and developer productivity will emerge as top priorities for CIOs and IT leaders as pressure builds to retain engineering talent and move the focus from the top to the bottom line by getting more out of existing development resources.

Below are three trends I see taking shape in the coming year in support of improving the workflow, productivity, and job satisfaction of software developers.

Developer experience will emerge as a top priority for businesses to keep their competitive edge

It will be more important than ever for leaders to prioritize their developer experience to remain competitive. This is particularly true for any business that relies on software to achieve mission-critical levels of operational efficiency and/or compete on their ability to bring new digital services to market rapidly and at scale.

In order for software companies to win and retain top developer talent, they must be able to provide a great developer experience. To do that, tech leaders must prioritize minimizing tool and frustration in the software development process. Software development is a highly creative process, but it is often rampant with bottlenecks and inefficiencies that disrupt creative flow. By minimizing bottlenecks like idle time waiting for build and test feedback cycles to complete and inefficient troubleshooting, software development teams will improve productivity while increasing developer happiness.

Especially given the uncertain economic outlook, now is the time for companies to focus on solidifying their software development team and upgrading their talent pool. As a result, there will be a greater emphasis on tools that boost productivity so developers can spend more time innovating and creating useful code. This is the best way to attract and retain top talent.

Observability in the software development process will become a must-have

When you ask many software development leaders what their average feedback cycle time is, they usually don’t have an answer. This is due to a lack of basic observability in the build and test process, which means leaders don’t have visibility into simple metrics that show where time and money is being lost.

The number of software builds that large enterprises run daily can be measured in the hundreds of thousands. Shaving a few minutes off build wait times at a typical cost of $1.50 per engineering minute can represent tens of millions in annual savings. As we head into a year of economic uncertainty, companies must push for observability in their software development process to identify areas for potentially significant cost savings.

In 2023, we will see a greater focus on bringing technologies like advanced analytics and machine learning to software development, so tech leaders can better leverage the build and test process data afforded by improved observability. In turn, this will help draw attention to the inefficiencies and pain points that developers face.

The practice of developer productivity engineering will overshadow attempts to ‘manage’ developer productivity

Developer productivity engineering (DPE) will emerge as the predominant approach to maximizing developer productivity and improving the developer experience. The practice of DPE views productivity as an imperative that can be addressed through engineered solutions rather than best management practices. As such, it relies on automation, actionable data, and acceleration technologies to deliver measurable outcomes like faster feedback cycles and reduced mean time to resolution (MTTR) for build and test failures.

In contrast, the traditional developer productivity management approach views productivity as a people problem that can be addressed by measuring individual developer activity and output levels, identifying top and bottom-level performers, and remediating productivity through skill gap analysis and training. This provides a soft ROI at best and often incentivizes the wrong kinds of behaviors (since “Big Brother” is always watching).

In the new year, more technology and global business brands will join companies like Apple, Google, and Netflix in investing in their DPE practice to raise the baseline of team productivity levels and receive a hard ROI tied to business outcomes rather than individual developer output.

Several business and technology productivity methodologies over the past 50 years have stood the test of time, including Toyota Production System/JIT delivery, Business Process Reengineering, Change Management, and Lean Six Sigma. Standing on their shoulders, DPE represents the next major advance in the evolution of software development and delivery processes, and the most significant since the introduction of Agile and DevOps.

With the growing need to deliver a better developer experience and effective developer productivity solutions, we’re going to see the practice of DPE take off in 2023.

Hans Dockter is the CEO and founder of Gradle Inc., inventor of the open source Gradle Build Tool, and the world’s leading expert on and advocate for the emerging practice of Developer Productivity Engineering (DPE), for which Gradle Enterprise is the leading enabling technology platform. Hans has a long and proud history with the open source community. Gradle Build Tool is the most popular build tool for open source JVM projects on GitHub. Gradle Enterprise is an open platform that supports multiple open source build tools, including Apache Maven and Bazel, in addition to Gradle Build Tool.

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