The role missing from the tech company C-suite
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C-suite roles typically map onto each of a company’s major needs. They are usually filled to create and implement business and technology strategies, manage financials and ensure that the right people are hired. However, leadership typically lacks a voice that advocates for developers at the executive level — a surprising oversight, given the competitive advantage that good developer experience (DX) can bring.
If companies sell directly to developers, the value of focusing on DX is likely self-evident. But a reputation for catering to developers can help you get your foot in the door, either when appealing to potential clients or improving your own company’s development and UX workflows.
Additionally, it’s an important focus for companies because at least 70% of developers feel they substantially or completely influence purchasing decisions, with 87% of companies consulting developers during the procurement process, and 91% of developers saying it matters that they are consulted.
A small number of pioneering firms are now creating chief developer experience officer (CDXO) roles. While many companies do have lower-level developer advocates, the CDXO represents a major shift in the role developers can play in company strategy. The role can provide a competitive advantage by orchestrating DX improvements to executives at a greater scale and faster timeframe than a lower-level role could often permit. The DX focus also goes hand in hand with a product-led growth (PLG) strategy.
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Why DX falls short without a CDXO
Without a DX voice in the C-suite, executives often fail to see the urgency of DX improvements and underestimate the substantial benefits they can bring. This results in a gap between lower-level discussions and the C-suite, and as a result, DX improvements are frequently sluggish and insufficient.
A potential consequence is that many developers may not have their needs efficiently met. A recent developer survey from Stack Overflow found that more than 65% of developers encounter knowledge silos, and more than 60% spend 30 minutes or more a day looking for the answers they need.
The developer role is dynamic and requires a lot of problem solving. Focusing on optimal DX requires both reactive and proactive improvements — meeting developer needs while adding useful features ahead of a demand for them. And only a CDXO has the high-level vantage point needed to make sure this happens.
The CDXO role is also useful for keeping a company honest about whether it’s actually succeeding in its DX goals. It’s easy to brag about great DX (and many companies do), but it’s also easy for developers to recognize when much-hyped offerings fail to meet their needs. Without a CDXO, getting a DX reality check may not occur quickly enough for executives to factor it into their decision-making.
The CDXO’s greatest asset: Their stakeholder connections
The utility of the CDXO is more than just the connection to the C-suite: It’s the connection to the entire company and the customer base.
Even as more companies embrace the CDXO role, we will likely not see dedicated DX departments. Instead, DX excellence is a company mindset. The developer user experience is split across the web, command line interface, APIs and many more tools, and each of these elements needs to be optimized with DX in mind for a more efficient development lifecycle. The CDXO will serve as the link between these departments to coordinate improvements.
The CDXO can also help to build, foster and support a developer community. That community may include the company’s own developers, as well as ones to whom the company’s products are sold. If the CDXO consistently acts on feedback to implement changes, developers will grow to trust them and want to interact with them. Open sourcing products goes even further by communicating transparency by making the community feel part of the solution by allowing them to contribute directly to improving the product in a way that achieves their goals.
If DX is straightforward to the point that developers can quickly solve their own problems, and this remains the case even as the industry evolves, it will solidify the CDXO’s connection to the community.
Qualities to look for in a CDXO
As someone who needs to understand the developer’s viewpoint, the CDXO should come from a technical development background. This is the only way to ensure the CDXO fully understands the developer process, pains and major challenges, as well as the places where fixes are most needed and the most important projects to launch for proactive improvement.
The CDXO also needs to have strong leadership skills. After all, the crux of the role is explaining to fellow C-suite members why improvements are necessary for the organization to gain a competitive advantage. There will likely be more issues to tackle than time to do so, and the ability to prioritize effectively is also essential for the CDXO.
Finally, enthusiasm is a must. For the CDXO, DX should be a true passion. Engaging with the developer community should not be a chore, but something done regularly and out of interest. If the CDXO legitimately engages with and cares about developers, everyday users become dedicated supporters.
The eight questions to ask if you need a CDXO
It’s entirely possible that some organizations already hold themselves accountable for DX without a CDXO. However, if you are considering establishing a CDXO role, consider the following questions, split into three categories, when evaluating your company:
Positively impacting DX: Unless your organization can answer “yes” to these questions, your DX may lag behind competitors:
- Does your approach to DX accelerate delivery and increase productivity?
- Does it deliver value to developers?
- Does it help to improve the quality of the product?
Promoting the human aspect of DX: The answers to these questions reflect your ability to tap into developers’ drive to experiment:
- Does your approach to DX allow developers to experiment and innovate?
- Does it promote loyalty and a human connection?
Driving DX decision-making: Prompt DX improvements require quick communication and coordination between every part of a company:
- Does your approach to DX allow shortcomings to be quickly communicated between departments?
- Does it impact the C-suite’s decision-making?
- Does it keep developers in the loop about improvements?
The CDXO makes the tech C-suite more complete
As the driver of the entire company, the C-suite needs to actively seek out and address any failures that deter the firm from operating as effectively as possible. As developers’ voices receive more recognition that can potentially impact bottom lines, many companies will realize how essential DX is for improving productivity, appealing to clients, and building dedicated developer communities.
The CDXO role is perfect for coordinating the entire company in making major DX improvements, thereby marketing efficiently to the company’s core audience, while serving as a friendly point of contact who developers can trust.
Alessandro Cauduro is chief development experience officer at Azion Technologies.
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