Why Human-Centric Development Is a Top Motivator for Software Engineers
May 16, 2024

Jack McCurdy

Human-centricity refers to designing products, services, and processes with a deep understanding of human needs, behaviors, and preferences. This shapes both how engineering teams approach their development and create software with user experience at heart.

A human-centric approach is intrinsic to a software engineer's motivation, and is essential to creating a sustainable, growing business.

What Human-Centric Development Looks Like

Human-centricity looks different depending on the makeup of your organization. DORA, Google Cloud's DevOps research team, suggests a human-centric organization has a culture of effective, visible communication across teams, as well as trust in those teams to deliver.

Your software engineers must also have a close relationship with users of your product. They should truly understand the user's "job to be done," and be dedicated to solving those problems. This is where information flow is crucially important.

If you're experiencing disconnect between users and engineering, such as your stories or features regularly requiring rework to meet users' needs, this is indicative of poor information flow. By contrast, when information flows freely between parties, collaboration increases and both user and engineer happiness increases. Users get what they want and engineers feel fulfilled providing great solutions.

Designing Motivating Processes

Designing software development processes that support engineers' happiness and productivity is one of the best things you can do.

I've already spoken to the bridge between users and engineers, alongside the satisfaction that your engineers will feel providing "fit for purpose" solutions — there's plenty more to be said about great UX design and human engagement with software. However, human-centricity extends beyond sole consideration for the end user.

People are your business' biggest cost center and you need to get the most out of them, especially your engineers who are working on services and applications that are central to your operations. The flip-side of the same coin is that your engineers want to be working on impactful solutions. They don't want to be wrestling with processes or tooling that sinks time or causes friction across the software development lifecycle. This is a lose-lose scenario.

An engineer who has tools and processes that help them to do their jobs effectively will be more productive, happier, and as a result so will your users. Some areas you can focus on to ensure that your development process is human centric are:

■ Automating repetitive manual tasks such as deployments with CI/CD.

■ Implementing robust backup and recovery solutions so engineers can move fast with limited fear of failure.

■ Focusing on iterative development — constantly shipping work when it's ready, creating tight feedback loops.

■ Shift left. Research and test solutions thoroughly earlier to prevent draining and costly rework.

These are simple places to get started, but have a positive compounding effect on an engineer's motivation, and allow them to focus on the work that they care about most.

Engineers Want to Be Innovative

Simple improvements to processes will make your engineers' lives better. It will also allow them to do the thing they care about most: innovating. This is the core tenet of technology, just look at the recent artificial intelligence boom.

The opportunity to craft new, inventive solutions that solve modern complex problems is a core driver for why many choose to major in computer science, or retrain as an engineer. This mindset is baked in. But, engineers need human-centric approaches and systems that give them freedom to innovate.

The Impact of Human-Centric Motivated Teams

Gallup has reported that highly engaged teams are 21% more profitable than those that are disengaged. This means keeping software engineers engaged and motivated is central to the financial performance of your organization.

As we mentioned, encouraging innovation is critical. A study by PwC found that of companies like yours that prioritize innovation, 50% expect it to have a significant impact on their bottom line.

And finally, DORAs 2023 State of DevOps Report found that high-performing organizations have a generative organizational culture. Those organizations have 30% higher performance. Central to that culture are high levels of trust and information flow, increasing productivity and job satisfaction while dramatically reducing burnout.

Jack McCurdy is a Salesforce DevOps Advocate at Gearset
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