A quarter-century into the internet era, many businesses are still grappling with the fundamental problem dubbed ‘digital transformation.’ One reason this challenge is so pernicious is that it can’t be solved the way most transitions can, with money and management consultants. Instead, it requires the expertise of a new breed of corporate leaders — software developers.
As our global economy increasingly comes to run on technology-enabled rails, every company is becoming a tech company and demand for high-quality software engineers is at all-time high. This is very real in Australia, where a recent study from Stripe and Nielsen revealed 70 per cent of businesses are looking to hire developers in the next year, but 64 per cent find it a challenge to do so, primarily due to a lack of qualified developers with the required skills.
And yet, despite being the lifeblood of many businesses, developer talent is all too often squandered. Australia is currently experiencing a major developer drought and skills shortage, with 69 per cent of Aussie companies reporting they struggle with limited developer resources ㄧthe highest figure reported globally.
This is especially worrisome given the significant impact developers can have on a business’ success. Software developers don’t have a monopoly on good ideas, but their skill set makes them a unique source of innovation and productivity. When deployed correctly, developers function as economic multipliers, which Australian businesses are already finding — 68 per cent say revenue from developer-driven products has increased over the past five years.
If developers are one of a business’ most important yet scarce resources, the key question is how to increase their productivity? Here are three things to help increase the multiplying impact that developers can have for your company:
Understand your current costs and opportunity costs. Consider the allocation of developer time just as carefully as you would consider the allocation of dollars (if not more so). Many Australian companies are suffering as a result of not doing so, with 63 per cent reporting that limited developer time is a constraint on their ability to innovate and grow. They recognise that their organisations would be much better served by enabling developers to focus on projects which drive competitive differentiation and bring products and services to market faster. However, two thirds (66 per cent) of businesses report that their developers spend more time addressing technical debt than on strategic projects.
Outsource. Fully embrace the cloud. Not just for storage and compute, but for every business function that’s not unique to your business—from messaging, payments and CRM, to planning, accounting, and inventory management. Put your developers on higher-impact projects that drive genuine business value. If you’re considering buy vs. build, the answer is simple: buy. Unless you’re Amazon or Microsoft, you shouldn’t be deploying engineers to build data centres. Similarly, your developers should be working on what makes your business unique. Almost nine in ten (87 per cent) companies surveyed say that implementing and maintaining a modern technology stack is now a priority, helping them maintain an edge over competitors, stay relevant in the market, maintain speed and even recruit new developers.
Hire leaders with technical backgrounds. As all companies become technology companies, you need technical expertise in the boardroom. Two thirds (64 per cent) of Australian companies report that they have made important strategic mistakes, such as having the wrong product roadmap and making the wrong hiring decisions, as a result of insufficient input from developers.Including software developers and employees from technical roles directly in strategic business decision-making will ensure you have the right product roadmap, the right team, and ultimately the right technology strategy for long-term success — and that you’ll avoid the pitfalls of increased technical debt and unnecessarily wasted developer time for years to come.
Some of Australia’s most exciting young companies like Sendle and Invoice2go have built their businesses on principles such as these.
Sendle’s goal of simplifying the way small businesses make door-to-door parcel deliveries is made possible through its developer-centric approach that keeps it on the forefront of innovation. By relying on a modern technology stack, Sendle enables developers to focus on value-generating tasks and creating solutions to grow its business. Invoice2go builds a competitive advantage by working collaboratively with developers, increasing its productivity and propelling success so developers can better understand business demand and focus on the challenges that genuinely matter to Invoice2go customers.
As digital transformation remains top-of-mind for every company, it’s critical to empower developers with the tools, infrastructure, and guidance to move more quickly. By increasing the multiplying power of developersyou can make better use of the resources you have and ignite steeper business growth.
Mac Wang, Head of Australia and New Zealand, Stripe.