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Developer engagement: understanding allegiance & avoiding grievance

Among the most in-demand professional workers in the current economy are software engineers. Therefore, it is fundamentally important to consider the developer's mindset and consider where their allegiance is placed.

Although every developer will always want to do the best for their employer in any given role by being innovative and creative, it's probably not unfair to suggest that software programmers place more long-term loyalty with their chosen software frameworks, preferred programming language, and methodology… and with the wider coder community at large.

Avoiding attrition & alienation

While not all developers have an affinity for the particular language, they will have an affinity for processing information and solving problems in a particular way. This will depend on how they learned to develop, and they will either change the way they think to match the language, or they will gravitate towards a language that works the way they do. In rare cases, a developer will undergo a "rebirth" later in their career and discover a better way of approaching software development.

Therefore, failure to provide software developers with the tools and environment they need to flourish ultimately risks employee attrition and transience. When a developer encounters a development environment that's not a natural fit for them, their ability to perform at their best may be compromised and may result in an inferior app or software tool that doesn't deliver an optimal end-user experience.

It is for these reasons that, when it comes to software developer engagement, allegiance is always above grievance. The upshot of this reality is that if and when a software engineer encounters some kind of grievance with their current employer at a business operations, team management or workflow process level, they will be more likely to take their skillset elsewhere.

The lesson for technology managers is simple, and it is above any vanilla management advice that should apply to all good workplace welfare directors. Yes, look after your people. That is a given. But at what might even be a more important level, make sure developers have the right tools to work with.

Don't cook with a blunt knife

If we understand that software developers are a slightly special breed with occasionally (but actually, helpfully) obsessive attention to detail, then we can appreciate just how important it is for any programmer to feel like they're capable of building the highest-performance applications for any given user requirement.

Asking a software professional to code with a clunky, slow, and cumbersome platform, Integrated Development Environment (IDE) or wider toolset is like asking a chef to prepare a meal with a blunt knife. Therefore, they are inclined to lean toward tools that are familiar or natural to them; that doesn't mean to say that they're stuck in the past and content with using out-of-date tools. By virtue of what they do (creating new apps or new software), they still have to walk along the path of tool evolution if their work is to meet the brief. This explains why there are often two or three different frameworks or languages in place addressing similar problems or challenges; it's a quicker route to development, which is why frameworks and languages usually align to different problem-solving styles.

Within all of this discussion, it's important to remember one key non-technical business reality - hiring is tactical, not strategic. When it comes to building and establishing a performant IT department, simply trying to hire your way out of a situation with new team members is a short-term tactical error that is now increasingly not possible in the first place. We have a global talent shortage of over one million developers, meaning that it's now more important than ever to think strategically for the long term and give developers what they need to build high-performance, quality software. In addition, though, a development team must have the right mix of problem-solving skills for the team to be effective; while the group will strive to be productive, different skill sets will give it the flexibility to address and resolve issues swiftly.

Make software loved again

At the risk of leaning slightly too close to another slogan, we need to make sure that we create, engender, and fuel software allegiance so that developers love the software tools they use every day. We can make software great again if we provide our engineers with platform-level tools that help to accelerate productivity by alleviating the excessively repeatable grunt work in all accessible workloads.

It all comes back again to allegiance and enabling programmers to work with their preferred coding function nuances, their chosen toolset techniques, and their wider development, delivery, and deployment methodology preferences. As mild-mannered as most developers are, like anyone, they do have a defined limit to the amount of frustration they will tolerate, whether it's driven by poor tools, bad management, or inefficient working processes.

To grasp this whole argument and understand it at a personal level, we would urge IT managers to consider and evaluate the skills predicament on both a technical and human level.

Keeping skilled and talented programmers on board means being able to provide a way of optimising resources and circumventing the drudgery associated with application provisioning, prepopulating, parsing, and preparation. That's the technical level. Keeping those same talented engineers on board also involves a human wellbeing requirement, i.e. if we don't remove as much of that pre-deployment grunt work as possible, then there's almost certainly going to be a detrimental effect on the work-life balance for every engineer.

Streamline dreamline

If we have painted a gloomy picture here at any stage, that is not the intention. There are methods available today to streamline development techniques and accurately accelerate software programming practices. As an advocate, practitioner and user of high-performance low-code software solutions, it's hard to envisage why some developer shops are still using outmoded approaches that risk leaving employees halfway out the door rather than happy and professionally fulfilled.

As we move deeper into a software engineering future even more intrinsically charged with automation and autonomous advantage, we ourselves in the platform business must also consider developer happiness if we wish to create developer allegiance and avoid any possibility of grievance.

Let's say it one last time; don't worry (if you have already given your developers the benefit of low-code tools to use alongside their favoured programming languages and tools), be happy.

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