GitHub Vice President Asia Pacific Sam Hunt shares how business leaders can artfully extract value from software developers – with the right attitude and innersourcing.
By Sam Hunt
Developers play an essential role in contributing to our economies, which goes beyond delivering accurate lines of codes. How they think, how they collaborate, how they break, fix and challenge can influence a far greater cultural change within an enterprise, providing businesses with arguably their strongest competitive advantage to date.
Southeast Asia is home to two of fastest growing developer communities in the world, with Singapore leading the pack – witnessing a 77 percent year-on-year growth of open source contributors in 2019, based on GitHub’s 2019 Octoverse report. Proving its desire for innovation and growth, this flourishing developer community is using digital innovation to speed up its global business growth.
Open source software and technology thrives on collaboration, enabling developers to innovate at speed. By following the developer’s lead, enterprises gain immediate access to faster development lifecycles, well-tested software at scale, greater efficiency and code security.
However, it’s not just the delivery of software projects that the business leaders should focus on, but the way developers use open source to realise the true power of collaboration. Breaking down siloed teams, empowering individuals to challenge, test, break, fix and learn from other talented individuals and teams in a wider community is a sure-fire way to bring more value and faster innovation into an enterprise.
Go beyond cultural differences
Developers’ attitude to collaboration can sometimes be in contrast with the traditional approach enterprises take. Enterprises prefer to have more control, compliance, corporate memory and IP ownership, whereas developers prefer having more choice, freedom and most importantly the chance to collaborate and innovate while sharing their knowledge with a wider community. Businesses will not unlock the true potential of collaboration unless they harmonise both and drive a real cultural shift within the organisation.
To reap the benefits of the open source cultural dynamic, leaders need to bring developers into the fold, help them understand business objectives and functions, and set general business parameters for developers to work within – with the flexibility for them to harness the creativity and power of collaboration. By the same token, to drive innovation, businesses need to embrace developers’ working models and collaboration best practices.
Taking the cultural shift a step further, business leaders can learn from how developers think, collaborate and approach challenges to effect real change. Businesses large and small have realised that the same culture that drives faster innovation in the open source community also drives faster innovation inside the organisation. Innersourcing refers to this improved way of working.
Leading companies like PayPal, Bloomberg, and Walmart leverage innersourcing to build software for their teams and their customers. It provides them with a unique competitive advantage and helps them stay relevant by adopting recognized best practices. Innersourcing is as much a cultural shift as it is a technological one. For organisations that want to remain relevant and succeed in a highly competitive business landscape, fostering a culture of collaboration, transparency and openness is crucial to ensuring transformation and innovation.
Business leaders also need to invest time to help developers understand business objectives and functions. A developer’s core role may be to build code, but the bigger picture is to create business value.
Gifting developers with business hats creates tangible value for leaders who proactively slingshot these sharp minds into other areas of the business.
Care for Developers
Leading customer-centric organisations are doing the best job in fostering developer happiness. Recent research from IDC and GitHub recognises that developers are getting closely involved in mapping the requirements of the software they create for customers. Organisations that enable developer and customer experience teams to work in closer alignment will also help to foster developer happiness.
Now more than ever, it is vital for companies to ensure developers are empowered to do their best work, wherever they are. Asynchronous communication has become crucial to providing flexibility for developers who need to juggle healthcare, errands and childcare while working from home. Therefore, equipping developers with the right tools is integral to keeping them happy, and in turn productive.
Findings from the recent GitHub Octoverse spotlight analysis uncovered that developers have increased their work volume by approximately 30 to 60 minutes, between January to March 2020 compared to the previous year. This may be attributed to companies increasing the rate products are being pushed to markets during times of economic uncertainty to remain competitive.
Analysis further suggests that developers will continue to spend sustained or even longer hours on development. Leaders must monitor the morale of their developers and take proactive steps to ensure they achieve a healthy work-life balance.
Establishing flexible and sustainable working schedules can also help manage workplace stress among developers. As software development becomes more crucial to organisations and project lead times shorten, business leaders must consider how they collaborate with developers and understand the value they bring – not just from a coding point of view. Developers like to use open source code and work with the larger community to innovate, mantras that can be applied organization-wide. Similarly, the agile and creative process that is natural to developers can spark a cultural shift, one that benefits the entire team.