The Brutal Truth: Developer Experience Challenges in Non-Tech Enterprises

As technology transforms industries, non-tech enterprises( Banks, Retail, Government etc.) increasingly rely on software development to drive growth and innovation. However, providing a positive developer experience can be a significant challenge for non-tech enterprises, which often need more resources, leadership support, and expertise to create a supportive and collaborative work environment for developers.

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This article will explore the brutal truth about developer experience challenges in non-tech enterprises, including outdated technology, limited resources, communication challenges, resistance to change, limited autonomy, security challenges, and more. I will also provide specific examples and actionable advice for non-tech enterprises looking to improve the developer experience.

Outdated Technology

One of the most significant challenges facing developers in non-tech enterprises is the use of outdated technology. Non-tech enterprises may still be using legacy systems, tools, programming languages, or no longer supported software, making it difficult for developers to maintain, support, or enhance the codebase. Additionally, developers may be using outdated tools and frameworks that are less efficient or less capable than newer alternatives. The result is a slower development cycle, lower-quality code, and a less satisfying developer experience.

Example: Applications, software written using unsupported programming languages, scripts. You may still have Visual Basic, Powerbuilder & Sybase systems or maybe Silverlight applications, Some old database technology, or Systems that can run only older versions of browsers or operating systems.

Lack of DevOps Culture

DevOps practices involve collaboration between development and operations teams to streamline software development, deployment, release, and maintenance. Although organizations may have “DevOps,” “SRE,” and “Cloud-Native” on their tech leadership presentations and board reports, there is often a lack of DevOps culture, meaning developers have limited access to the resources and tools required for successful software development that the modern software age demands. Without a DevOps culture, developers may struggle to get the support they need from operations teams, resulting in deployment delays, resolving production outages on time, gaining visibility on applications that run the business, and, finally, poor developer experience.

Example: Applications are packaged using old tools, manual build or testing processes, and a strong divide between build and run teams. Infrastructure provisioning may still be old school and takes a week or two.

Limited Resources

Non-tech enterprises may need more resources and support to invest in software development, improving processes, tools, and training, and providing a positive developer experience. Lack of resources regarding the smooth onboarding process, timely availability of developer workstations, bloated governance and security policies to gain access to tools and source code repositories impacts the developer experience in the first weeks of joining. Limited funding, budgets for developer tools, training, retaining talents, and hiring delays can lead to frustration among developers who need help to do their jobs effectively.

Example: Access to training programs to upskill, developer (even hybrid or remote) onboarding takes a long time. Several manual tasks in software delivery pipelines like no investments in automation framework, tools or testing.

Communication Challenges

Developers in non-tech enterprises may find it challenging to communicate with business stakeholders who lack technical knowledge. This can lead to misunderstandings, missed deadlines, wrong products, rework, and poor-quality products. Additionally, the lack of communication can make it difficult for developers to get support from other teams, resulting in a negative developer experience. Too much bureaucracy, red tape processes, and timely access to the correct information add more to the poor developer experience.

Example: For example, developers may be searching for proper support documentation for the production applications, waiting for access permission to source codes to resolve production outages, or even accessing production logs to gain visibility of operational issues, making it further complicated for developers to work productively.

Resistance to Change

Non-tech enterprises may resist change, making it difficult for developers to implement new technologies or processes that could improve the developer experience. This can result in developers feeling stuck in their roles and lacking growth opportunities. Additionally, the lack of innovation and willingness to try new approaches can make attracting and retaining top tech talent challenging.

Example: Enterprises happy to be in their comfort zone and not interested in embracing new working methods, lack of acknowledgment or rewarding risk-taking. Engineers do not see career growth opportunities and are stuck in their current jobs.

Limited Autonomy

Non-tech enterprises may have rigid hierarchies and decision-making processes, which can limit the autonomy of developers. This can lead to developers feeling frustrated and disengaged, resulting in a poor experience. Additionally, the lack of autonomy can make it difficult for developers to take ownership of their work and contribute to the organization’s success.

Example: Enterprise bogged by centralized, heavy, overload processes and documentation in the name of Enterprise standards and governance. For anything and everything, the “there is a committee” approach and slowing down the “flow”. Engineers feel they have no say or their feedback is ignored.

Security Challenges

Enterprises may not have robust security practices, which can be a concern for developers working with sensitive data or systems, or they may not have the right tools and support from their security team to meet the organizational governance, risk, and compliance requirements. This can result in developers feeling stressed and worried about the security of their work. Additionally, the lack of security awareness can lead to delays in deployment, vulnerability to security attacks/cyber threats, and weak security design and implementation in software applications and products, further exacerbating the developer experience.

Example: Enterprise may lack security awareness programs, security coding practices & training programs. They may also have the manual eye-ball exercise of security scanning and no tools for detecting code base or libraries vulnerabilities.

Developers want to work in an environment that fosters creativity and productivity

The Next Steps

To address these challenges, non-tech enterprises must take a strategic approach, take “Developer Experience” seriously and invest in it. Here are some specific steps they can take:

Embrace, and invest in newer technology: Non-tech enterprises should aim to use modern technology, tools, and frameworks to provide developers with the resources they need to do their jobs effectively. It includes open-source software and tools throughout the “Ideate, Create, Release & Operate” life cycle. 

Create a DevOps culture & foster psychological safety: Non-tech enterprises should encourage collaboration between development and operations teams and provide developers with the tools and resources to work effectively. Help engineers to experiment, fail and acquire new knowledge from their experience.

Provide more resources for development: Invest in developer tools and training, and make onboarding simple and seamless. 

Improve communication: Work to improve communication between developers and dependent teams, encourage openness and get business stakeholders and technology teams often together to reduce misunderstandings and improve the quality of products. 

Be open to change: Be open to new technologies, frameworks, methodologies, and processes that can improve flow and the developer experience. Let continuous improvement be in action, not just lip service.

Give developers more autonomy: Empower developers to take ownership of their work and contribute to the organization’s success.

Improve security practices: Prioritize security and provide developers with the tools and support they need to build secure software.

In conclusion, the challenges faced by non-tech enterprises in providing a positive developer experience can be daunting. Still, by investing in developer experience, enterprises can create a work environment that fosters innovation, collaboration, and growth. By recognizing developers’ challenges and proactively addressing them, non-tech enterprises can attract and retain top talent and improve flow, effectiveness, and efficiency, resulting in higher-quality products and a more successful business overall.

By making “Developer Experience and Productivity” a core tenet of Engineering/Software Development units, non-tech enterprises can prioritize the well-being of their engineers and help prevent burnout. Help them (Developers) to help you and your customers.

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