Amid COVID-19, Developers Struggle to Keep Pace

Content By Devops .com

It’s been a wild ride for digital innovation. It’s also been a stressful year for developers. At most organizations, the pandemic has increased reliance on digital experiences (and its programmers) exponentially. IT spending is rising, and competition is skyrocketing. More than ever before, the pressure is placed on developers to meet rigorous demands.

A recent study by Couchbase revealed how developers are revolutionizing digital transformation efforts throughout the COVID–19 crisis. Yet, this output may not be sustainable. The 2020 Tech Lead Survey, which surveyed 450 senior IT decision-makers worldwide, exposed stressors for development teams, which, if not mitigated, could easily result in fatigue and burnout.

So Much To Do, So Little Time

Some digital transformation efforts that were slated to take five years have had timelines reduced to a matter of months. In this unprecedented era, flexibility is an indispensable characteristic to adapt to change. In fact, 63% of respondents said that flexibility to change direction on a whim is critical to meeting digital transformation goals.

But, extreme flexibility comes at a price. Forty-nine percent of respondents indicated their development teams have been asked to do too much in too little time. As a result, 40% of respondents said their development teams were behind schedule with their current projects.

“In a year when organizations have had to struggle to adapt to new decentralized ways of working and rapidly evolving markets, developers have come under severe pressure to help their organizations adapt,” said Steve Yen, co-founder of Couchbase.

It’s apparent that developers are under escalating pressure. If the weight continues to pile on, exhaustion could bring overall production to a grinding halt. At least leaders realize who is driving digital innovation — 92% acknowledge developers are the unsung heroes of current digital transformation initiatives.

Lacking Clear Direction From On High

Eighty-six percent of respondents experienced challenges with their development teams. However, this does not wholly reflect poorly on developer inabilities — managers have a responsibility to set more explicit guidelines.

Another obstacle: goal setting. Forty percent of respondents reported that setting clear, measurable goals for their team is a serious challenge. In addition, ensuring developers use the right technology, and ensuring teams understand overarching strategic goals were oft-cited pain points, as well.

Resolving these issues will be critical to reducing developer complaints and remediating the stressors outlined above. “There needs to be investment in not just people, but also in the technology, management and communication that will help individuals succeed,” said Yen.

Solution: DevOps

So, where should architects direct new investments? Well, of the 450 IT leaders surveyed, 92% believe DevOps could have a revolutionary impact on their digital transformation efforts.

The report refrains from offering specific technical advice, but makes the following general recommendations:

  • Don’t rely on legacy technology ill-suited for the tasks at hand. Current investments must be future-proofed for tomorrow’s scalability and integration requirements.
  • Don’t assume onboarding new tech will be easy. As digital innovation matures, new technology becomes more refined and specialized. As I’ve covered, whether it’s Kubernetes, service mesh or multi-cloud strategies, all require time to learn, along with some pretty specialized skillsets.
  • Take time to communicate with developers and understand obstacles. Be realistic with timelines, and do not ask for too much. Plan out project goals strategically, because haste does not equate to overall speed.

Under pressure to perform and maintain flexibility, it makes sense that engineers are feeling the pressure of an amplified development pace. As that pace is likely not to decrease in 2021, finding methods to better support developers is key for long-term sustainability.

At many organizations, a greater DevOps investment equates to operationalizing and automating processes for areas like microservices CI/CD, and networking and zero-trust security. It could also mean supporting developer workflows with some-code tooling. Other institutions are even introducing low-code tools to democratize the development process, intending to relieve some burden from professional engineers.

Invest in Developers, Invest in Smooth Operations

On average, development teams grew by 20% in 2020. As expectations for developers rise, so will investment in developers and the processes that support them. As teams move forward, it will be critical to gather feedback and understand what’s causing gridlock so that developers maintain agility and avoid burnout.

In this competitive climate, choosing the correct people and systems to support new digital advances will be a competitive advantage. “Investing in [developers] in the right way will help them play to win,” said Yen.

Since 2017, Couchbase has surveyed IT decision-makers on the challenges they face throughout their digital transformation efforts. Here, I highlighted the major takeaways from the 2020 report. You can view the full findings here.

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