“Developer Experience”: Soumya Lakshmi with Adobe (Video + Transcript)

May 30, 2024

Soumya Lakshmi (Adobe Director of Engineering) speaks about developer experience (DevX): productivity, impact and satisfaction as keys to quality and collaboration. She will share her framework, metrics, and KPIs.


In this ELEVATE session, Soumya Lakshmi (Director of Engineering at Adobe) speaks about developer experience (DevX): productivity, impact, and satisfaction as keys to quality and collaboration.

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Soumya Lakshmi ELEVATE Developer Experience DevX move fast with quality

Transcript of ELEVATE Session:

Soumya Lakshmi:

Thank you Sukrutha. Hi everyone. Happy Women’s Day and thank you Sukrutha Angie and the ELEVATE team for giving me this opportunity on Women’s Day. I’m here today to talk about DevX. DevX is called developer experience. This is going to be a little geeky talk, so bear with me. It’s purely from the engineering side, but I promise I have a story to say, which is what I’m going to start with.

I grew up in India and reflecting on my childhood in India, we did a lot of train journeys. Train journey was sort of the internal part of our family outing. These adventures began long before the train even arrived. It sort of marked the anticipation and the flurry of preparation. And each journey meant packing our bags with care, ensuring that we have everything needed for the trip. Upon reaching the station, our next step would be to find a porter or a coolie, is what we call locally in the Indian language.

Now, watching these skilled porters effortlessly balance their entire family, our entire family luggage, where I’ll show you a picture, I hope it’s pretty clear. I try to get a picture where a porter is carrying a lot of luggages. There’s one couple on his head and there’s two, one on his right shoulder, one on his left shoulder, and then he just carries around. Now it’s a real skill to carry the entire family’s luggage on their heads and arms, and there was nothing short of remarkable. Now they carried our burdens, allowing us to navigate the crowded station with ease, transforming our potential strenuous part of our journey with this seamless experience.

Now, why am I saying this? What has this got to do with the developer experience? Now, this memory serves as a powerful metaphor for a challenge faced by our developers and the engineers today. In many ways, they are like the coolies or the porters of the digital world, just as the porter prepares the physical journey. Let me go to the next slide. There we go.

Just as the porter prepares for the physical journey by strategically balancing the load to carry our developers and engineering teams and engineers geared up to the journey of innovation, excited about the possibilities of deploying really exciting features, but they also weigh into the inefficiencies that accompanies with the role and these inefficiencies being slow build processes, inadequate infrastructure, sparse test automation, nebulous documentation, and ever looming shadow of the tech debt, which never gets over are the suitcases of the software development industry that exists today.

Now, these are necessary parts of the journey containing assets and tools along the road. Yet this is a cumbersome process, slowing the pace down, clouding the excitement, and at the end of it, it seems really tiring.

Why then should our digital porters or coolies, the developers and engineers whose innovation propels us forward, accept the struggle as given, just as an introduction of wheeled luggages, revolutionized travel for many of the load or managing the load because adding wheels to suitcase? It really did not change the functionality of the suitcase, but what it did is made a hard task easier, and that’s really what DevX is. That’s exactly what the crux of the developer experience is.

Let me talk a little bit about the recipe of what I think, and GitHub completely agrees with this, is of what a DevX is.

DevX can be viewed in many different lenses, and this has become a common buzzword in the industry, but a lot of companies have started to put as this is an org and this is a team and we are investing in it, but what exactly is this? And it can be viewed in many different lenses. I think that the formula for DevX incorporates few key eight things.

First, it takes into account how efficiently and productively a developer can do their best work on any given project. The second one, how simple is it to make a code change and how easy is it to move from idea to putting it into production? Today, if I have an idea in mind, how long does it take for me for that idea to be delivered in the hands of our users?

Soumya Lakshmi Adobe DevX Productivity Impact Satisfaction Developer Experience

DevX also examines how positively or negatively the work environment, the workflows, the tools, the technologies that affect the engineering satisfaction. By eliminating some of these friction and inefficiencies, we can multiply our operational impact. Now, if we want to move fast, it is easy, but if we want to move fast with quality is when the tricky part comes.

Collaboration and quality is also the integral piece of what a DevX is. If our engineers are productive and if they love what they’re doing, and if collaboration is smooth and quality is the integral part of it, then we have a good DevX and DevX is great. Yes, we want everything. I mean, who doesn’t, right?

Let’s see. Okay, why is this important Now, why are we talking about this? This seems pretty obvious to some extent, but why is it becoming even more important now? Because of the macroeconomic climate in the industry, the economic uncertainty is shaking up the tech industry with increased pressure on infrastructure and engineering teams to optimize cost. At the same time, we also realized that the progress and innovation must be accelerated as it is the key lever to create business value and success for digital initiatives and boost revenue of organizations and with restricted budgets.

That’s the key point. There was a survey or a snapshot that was done February of 2023. It’s called the Forrester Opportunity Snapshot, and what they did is they looked across 500 enterprise companies across United States and they did a survey of what the companies think that they should be focusing on to innovate.

Now, this company who does this survey is their focus is digital transformation, and organizations are recognizing and making sure that the operational excellence is on par with a restricted budget. These were some of the results of the survey. I won’t go into a lot of details because it is a lot of numbers. I’ll still talk about the top four key findings that came out of the survey.

The first key finding is the need to increase efficiency as a key focus. Yes, there is no headcount. There’s no incremental headcount. The companies are not hiring as much as they were and the climate, the microeconomic climate is extremely challenging, but we still need to innovate. To keep up with the pace of the digital transformation, organizations are recognizing that the need for developers to build, deliver software with greater efficiencies before.

Me as an engineer, it’s been a while I wrote code, but as an engineer, if I’m able to write one pull request in one day, then how is my company, how is my company providing the tools and technologies for me to merge two or three per request? That’s where the industry is going, and that’s where the crux of DevX is. Now, according to this research, 87% of the leaders agree that increasing the developer productivity is a priority for the next 12 months, while 85% say that better meeting customer demand will be their focus, and 85% say that shortening the release cycles, but would be the key factors involved.

The second key finding is several obstacles will hinder developer productivity. Now, developer productivity is not as simple as, Hey, you give me a tool and a framework and I can make things happen. There are a lot of different things that go into the combination of uncertain economic outlook, increased competition, shifting, customer demand, and the hybrid work as well as the DevOps methodology. This is all highlighted in the report. If you take a look at these numbers, 41% of the respondents say that developer productivity and experience building difficult to improve because of pandemic related issues like onboarding, training, mentoring. The face value is gone, and I’m sure things are improving eventually, but we need to strike a balance and focus more on not just the user experience but also the engineering or developer experience. The key finding three is having an internal developer platform, or an IDP, to boost developer productivity.

What’s the solution? You just give an IDP and then that’s the solution. Well, according to the snapshot or according to the survey, they said that IDP enabled a self-service for developers, helping them to become less reliant on operations and reducing bottlenecks that caused by ticket ops and whatnot.

This is one of the biggest pain points caused by increasing complexity of cloud architecture. Not only do platforms help alleviate this challenge, but they also have a potential huge impact on developer velocity and satisfaction by optimizing developer workloads and freeing up teams to focus on value adding work.

And the last one is the developer experience impacts overall business. It’s not just that we make strides and we make improvements to the developer experience and only engineering teams is benefited. Let me go forward a little bit. There we go. This talks about the survey also took into account teams who already invested in an org like DevX, and this is what they found. They found that it not just improved the engineering productivity, but it improved app development, time to market, customer attraction and retention. On the delivery side, there was brand recognition reputation, and on the operations side we had revenue growth and developer recruitment, retention and profitability.

Alright, so I think there was a lot of numbers. What is the crux of this conversation and where are we headed? In conclusion, what I do, I have about five minutes and I can take questions after this. In conclusion, what I would really like to add is think about it like adding wheels to your suitcase. 20, 30 years we all traveled, lugging our baggage or somebody else carried it for us instead.

The simple solution of adding wheels really made all our jobs easier. We could just go anywhere in the world lugging our luggage right behind us because the wheels take care of it. The wheels don’t necessarily improve the functionality of the suitcase, but it does do a lot of heavy lifting.

Think of DevX as the heavy lifting of the software development, a thing of the past. And we are not just enhancing the developer experience, but we are also enhancing the growth and innovation in the coming years. Thank you.

Sukrutha Bhadouria:

There are some questions here. There’s one question. How do I get started with using DevX for my company?

Soumya Lakshmi:

That’s a great question. Depending on which stage your company is and at what point there is readiness, there might be a few different things. I can speak from Adobe’s perspective. Adobe, I don’t think a year ago DevX was even a thing we started talking about, like I said in the presentation, we were not there.

We were not hiring and headcount was crucial, but we still had to make improvements. But there were different teams and members of the team who were already doing this kind of work.

One of the things you could do is create a working group across different products within the organization to see what needs to happen and how you can share and reproduce to share and sort of reuse some of the frameworks and toolings that you’re doing. That could be the first step.

Then, meeting often online of course, I mean, and setting up a roadmap of what is important and what are the gaps, and at least starting this conversation in the devs direction might be the first step towards it.

I’ll also add that there are a lot of resources available online because again, all the companies, many companies are realizing that our user experience and customer experience is crucial, but so is our engineering and developer experience. That might be a good starting point.

I’m available and you’re welcome to reach out to me personally and I’m happy to provide guidance on that front as well.

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