How Organizations Can Prepare for Human-Centric Development
April 30, 2024

Jack McCurdy

We live in a highly autonomous and technological world. We rely on machines and technologies to provide great services and satisfaction, often over human operators. Yet still, behind it all is humans. Humans developing technology, operating technology, overseeing the technology. This is why we should be focused on enabling human-centric development.

Human-centric approaches are essential to success — especially now that 58% of organizations report that it's very or extremely critical to the C-suite and their organizations to have a quality developer experience.

What is Human-Centric Development?

Human-centric development puts humans at the center of the experience, as well as the development process itself. It's a conscious effort to make sure that software is built for the benefit of humans, and that development practices support the humans building software.

Taking this approach significantly increases buy-in and engagement with software — not only from the end-user perspective but also from the engineer's perspective. Centering on the needs and wants of these people creates better, well-adopted solutions that fuel business growth.

Analyzing Existing Processes

Consider: how human-centric is your IT department right now? The answer will dictate how best to shift towards our new way of working.

The first place to look when answering this question is your company's feedback culture. Successful development teams adopt the philosophy of DevOps, aiming for tight feedback loops between development teams and end users. DevOps encourages collaboration and communication. 

Identifying how feedback is given, received and considered in the development process between end users and engineers is step one.

Step two is understanding how engineers feed back and improve on internal processes. Is there a space to do so, and does leadership make time for this culture?

You can also look at your delivery metrics. The DORA metrics are a great way to identify speed and resilience in your processes. But it's also important not to overlook reliability. Are we reliably, repeatedly, executing to the same standard or improving?

Lastly, to bring it all together, you have to look at sentiment. Team sentiment and happiness correlate with productivity and business output. You can take regular employee surveys, or there are many great tools out there that you can incorporate into your workspace, or you can take regular employee surveys.

Preparing for the Shift to Human-Centricity

There are three focus areas that will ensure you're set up for success when shifting to, or further embracing, a human-centric approach.

1. Cultivate a supportive organizational culture

An organization with employees that demonstrate empathy and understanding across all levels will benefit hugely in the long run. Start with transparency. Employees need to be clear on what's expected of them, what "good" or "great" looks like. And they need to know they'll be supported in times of change.

Prioritizing employee well-being is imperative. By creating functions where employees feel their well-being is central to their success can prevent burnout or the feeling that they've reached a dead end.

It's also important to encourage and create opportunities for employees to continue their learning journey — whether that be formal training, or learning and development budgets that they can use to develop soft or hard skills that they choose themselves.

Work with teams to create a vision — a plan for a life and career that they want. Show flexibility and be intentional about creating opportunities that leave them feeling fulfilled. This is the secret sauce of any great leader.

2. Align technology with values

The user experience is central to what we create as developers. It's essential to the success and adoption of our applications. As such, our own tools and processes should be user-centric.

Putting user-friendly tools at the disposal of your development team gets better results. Be mindful not to dictate tooling where possible, as everyone works differently. Give employees choice where possible.

Robust DevOps practices that automate repetitive tasks can be critical to the success and happiness of your team. These processes are repeatable, predictable, and easy to diagnose when things go wrong. They also free up developers to focus on the meaningful, impactful work, which is great for the business and their own motivation.

3. Empower employees

Every employee is a stakeholder in the success of the business, projects, and customer success. And great ideas can come from everywhere. But not everyone is confident sharing without encouragement. Encouraging input from each teammate, simply by asking what they think rather than waiting for them to speak up, is hugely powerful.

Create room for feedback from all levels of the organization. Make sure feedback is considered and responded to, even if there's no action from it. Feeling seen and heard is critical for morale.

Giving employees ownership of key projects and initiatives will generate better engagement and free up managers' time. Rewarding and recognizing great work in turn will have a snowball effect on quality of output. This creates future leaders and clear paths for progression internally.

Success relies on humans

The success of your organization relies on humans making good decisions, with or without, technology. Investing in human-centric development will contribute to long-term, sustainable growth of your organization. The time is now.

Jack McCurdy is a Salesforce DevOps Advocate at Gearset
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