Here's Why Developer Happiness is the Key to Business Success
June 28, 2021

Eric Brinkman
Cobalt

Steve Ballmer, the CEO of Microsoft in the early 2000s, is well known for his "developers, developers, developers" speech, highlighting the more developers, the better. Andy Jassy, the CEO of Amazon, often talks about the importance of builders, urging companies to invest in them, and ensuring that Amazon Web Services, the world's largest public cloud, serves builders as best as it can.

Why did both of these technology visionaries place so much emphasis on developers?

The answer is because they knew developers would be key in leading the charge through digital transformation; or the key in building the future.

While developers are important, it's not simply about the sheer number of developers, but also about making them happy. While this may seem like an eyebrow raiser, there is a myriad of research that outlines the linkage between happy developers and business outcomes. Let's dive further into developer happiness, how businesses can keep their developers happy, and how I've witnessed this trend come to life in the pentesting sector of development.

Happiness as a Superpower

Developer happiness is critical in attracting and retaining talent. According to Nicole Forsgren, author of the book, "Accelerate," employees in high-performing teams were found 2.2 times more likely to recommend their organization to a friend as a great place to work, and 1.8 times more likely to recommend their team to a friend.

This is a significant finding, as research has shown that "companies with highly engaged workers grew revenues two and a half times as much as those with low engagement levels."

Additionally, developer happiness is important in achieving business success. Companies that are undergoing DevOps transformations are doing so in order to work in small batches, ship products more frequently, and obtain customer feedback more quickly. Developers want to work on projects that matter to customers, so receiving customer feedback that the product team is on the right track leads to a virtuous cycle that typically leads to improved business outcomes.

How to Make Your Developers Happy

So, how do you make your developers happy? One simple way to serve your teams is to allow them to select their own tools. In fact, tools are highlighted as one of three elements that are highly correlated with software delivery performance and a strong team culture, according to "Accelerate."

This makes sense at a primal level; letting developers choose their own tools, such as hardware, IDEs, code repository, and CI software allows them to feel comfortable and operate more efficiently. And while there can be value in tool standardization, organizations need to ensure that developers are the ones driving the procurement decision, rather than the other way around.

A Pertinent Example: Enhanced Pentesting Tools Drives Developer Happiness

I've witnessed how developer happiness can impact business success through my experience working with pentesters specifically.

Cybersecurity, and in particular pentesting, has typically been viewed as an afterthought to developers. In many organizations, security departments may be viewed as a blocking function; however, there are several companies trying to change this by interjecting security testing as far "left" as possible into the development process.

In this example, there are several ways cybersecurity tools can assist with making developers processes more scalable, therefore making them happier.

What is typically chosen by developers because they are the most innovative?

Providing an API to ingest data into the DevOps tool chain is one way that's gotten a lot of traction. Most DevOps platforms allow for programmatic issue creation and an extensible continuous integration engine that allows for efficient workflows and automation. APIs also help with reducing the amount of tools developers have to master and work in. If security information is delivered as part of the normal workflow, vulnerabilities will be easier to find and more likely fixed as part of the normal product/engineering process.

Another way to increase developer happiness is to provide a native integration with DevOps platforms. This accomplishes the same outcome as an API, but requires less custom code to connect the tools, which means developers can focus their time on application development rather than integration logic. A marketplace approach to integrations can work if the community is large enough, but runs the risk of out of date or unmaintained integrations. Cybersecurity companies may want to consider native, first-party-supported integrations to ensure their customers, and developers, have the best experience possible.

Cybersecurity has a ways to go in truly delighting developers and making DevSecOps as popular of an industry term as DevOps. Assisting developers in the journey of delivering secure software that delights customers is one way to accelerate the transition, and make them happier. Additionally, ensuring developer happiness by empowering developers with choice, and giving them the access they need to the best tools, ultimately drives bottom line business success.

Eric Brinkman is Chief Product Officer at Cobalt
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