Survey from Our Developer Community: Doing Stuff that Matters

Brian Nash's picture

Listening to customers and the community is a top priority for any company, and as I shared with you previously my team here at CloudBees has been focused this quarter on engaging with the global community of developers.  The goal has been to understand what drives these users; what gets them excited or what makes their work rewarding, and conversely what bums them out or sucks the wind out of their creative sails.  We want to help them make an impact on their industries and customers with their work, so knowing how they feel about their work helps us align our story better.  These are higher-level concerns and not about specific product features; their feedback will drive product direction but also the direction of our marketing, sales and service conversations.  

First, a bit about the methodology.  While we built hypotheses about what we thought their motivations might be, we didn’t prompt them with these or give a multiple choice menu, instead letting interviewees lead the discussion to what they cared most about.  Because we were at times asking them to share what frustrated them about their current job, most of these were also anonymous and non-recorded interviews and we’ve taken great care to keep them that way, honoring that confidence and trust. 

Candidates were a mix.  Some current customers and some not.  Some senior developers and some junior engineers.  Some from steady-state teams maintaining an established product, some from innovation-state teams building something brand new.  A few are DevOps engineers and a larger number are application and service developers.  Most teams have at least some virtual component to their jobs, but many are entirely virtual (like CloudBees!)

 

developer interviews
Our interviews included a mix of companies, most containing both innovation and steady-state projects

 

 

virtual vs. physical colocation
A majority of developers that spoke with us had at least some virtual component to their jobs, with many being entirely virtual. Even if they had a desk in an office, their application or project team was not necessarily co-located with them.

 

 

 

developer respondent base
Our audience worked out to be mostly one of the senior members of their team, spending some of their time mentoring others.  Less than a quarter of them described themselves as “less experienced than the others in my team.”

 

Their thoughts on CI/CD were consistent. Most of them are quite aware of both continuous integration and continuous delivery, even though few of their organizations practice them both broadly.  Nearly all respondents said they believe aspiring to better CI and CD is good for them and for their organization, and the customers they serve.  But we already knew that, right? 

What do they want from their jobs?  Without prompting, the top three responses kept coming up: Making an impact on my customers, my company, my industry, the world; solving interesting and challenging problems; the joy of being creative, doing something novel or leaping forward with technology.  Note that many people cited more than one reason.

developer job needs

 

Making an impact is important - not just to our developer audience who cited it more than 80% of the time, but also to us here at CloudBees. We want to have an impact, and by enabling our user community, empower them, too.  That can mean a lot of things so we asked them how they measure the impact of their work. Some of them are quite data-driven about it (surprise!) and are looking at specific metrics to determine how their work moved needles.  Soft metrics are also important - such as knowing that you made your customer (or your support team!) happy. Social metrics also matter - which we know from Jenkins and other open-source projects, where having a reputation for contributing to success is a rewarding reason to do great work.

developer measure impact

 

What is at the bottom of the list?  Very few cited work-life flexibility, although they appreciated it. Even fewer brought up financial rewards. It seems we have a community of people who want to do great things and expect the rewards to follow. 

We also asked about frustrations - and again didn’t suggest choices, but responses gravitated to the same things naturally. Time is everyone’s most valuable resource and no one wants to waste time at work. For developers that usually means working on something that ends up not being used, redoing work more than once, or doing something that isn’t viewed as valuable. Being distracted away from interesting work is also frustrating, as is churn - in upstream requirements, in systems and tools, in teams and process.  

developer frustration

 

Time wasting came up the most (in over 65% of discussions) so we asked what causes time waste for them, and responses fell into three common areas:  Finding answers and navigating clunky, inconsistent documentation isn’t easy or efficient; complex team collaboration across distance and differences soaks up a lot of time; waiting on builds (or fixing them!); or, digging through complex dependency issues doesn’t feel like useful work.

developer time waste

Conclusions

  • Developers are just like the rest of us: motivated by doing work that matters.  
  • Creativity and the ability to find creative solutions to interesting problems is a critical part of the job.  
  • Doing wasted work - or something that’s not work at all, but a distraction - is frustrating.  
  • Collaboration is a struggle, especially with increasingly remote teams.
  • Visibility into downstream impacts (on application, business, humans) is motivating.
  • Reducing the layers between developers and customers organically builds developer satisfaction.

In addition, we found these same concerns spanned all types of companies, teams of all sorts, and developers working on all sorts of projects.

  • No material difference in motivations between steady state and innovation developers.
  • No material difference in motivations between senior vs. junior engineers.
  • The biggest difference is among management - where a broader perspective about business priorities creates more understanding of factors like collaboration and churn.  This is a sign that developers are often not sufficiently informed about business decisions that affect them.

I hope you found this data insightful, or it at least reinforced what you already believed about your developer customers or the devs in your own company.  A hearty thank you to all the interesting and eloquent people that contributed to this survey! 

You’ll see more of the results from these kind of surveys here, or by following CloudBees on Twitter.

We’re CloudBees and we want to help you “build stuff that matters.”