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GitHub research reveals the productivity and collaboration benefits of developer experience

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GitHub, released one of the first empirical studies that analyzes the impact of prioritising the developer experience on productivity and collaboration. The report outlines statistical evidence that improving the developer experience creates positive outcomes for individuals, teams, and organisations.

Key findings include:
● Flow State: Developers who had a significant amount of time carved out for deep work felt 50% more productive, and those who found their work more engaging felt 30% more productive
Cognitive Load: Developers who find their tools and work processes intuitive and easy to use feel they are 50% more innovative, compared to those with opaque or hard-to understand processes.
Feedback Loops: Tight feedback loops resulted in developers reporting 50% less tech debt and faster code reviews helped developers feel 20% more innovative

The research is clear: developers who carve out significant time for deep work enjoy a 50% productivity boost. Minimising distractions, which can be everything from Slack messages to meetings to peers asking for help is paramount for high-value work. Granted, it’s not always easy to reserve blocks of time, especially in distributed teams across multiple time zones. However, providing developers an atmosphere where they can maximise their flow state can pay high dividends.

“To optimise building code, you need the right environment. Implementing practices that
enable your developers to enter and stay in the flow is a winning move” says Dr. Eirini
Kalliamvakou, staff researcher at GitHub and co-author of the study. “If you’re a business
leader who’s focused on being profitable and innovative, enabling a good DevEx is one of the key levers at your disposal. The research we published finally gives us the solid data and
evidence we need to make the case to the larger community,” Kalliamvakou added.

Adobe is an example of a company that recognises the value of providing an effective
working environment for developers. CJ Dotson, senior PM of developer productivity at
Adobe, said: “When technology is what you sell, investments in DevEx are not optional.
Adobe’s investment in DevEx leads to higher developer satisfaction and better business
outcomes.”

Additionally, developers who find their work engaging feel 30% more productive, according
to the DevEx study. This stat should help your organisation rethink the distribution of tasks. Dr. Nicole Forsgren, partner researcher at Microsoft and co-author of the study, said:
“Providing deep work and exciting, engaging projects are some of the biggest things companies can do to improve productivity. Every developer has experienced the frustration of not understanding their code or its surrounding context well. Because so much of our code is interconnected and developed by multiple people, understandability is part of why having a good DevEx is so important.”

It’s a familiar pattern: developers who report a high degree of understanding of their code feel 42% more productive than those with low or no understanding. Low understanding can come from various factors, including poor or outdated documentation, lack of onboarding, or the sheer pace of innovation with AI.

Kalliamvakou also notes that this is where good tooling comes in: “Certain technologies like GitHub Copilot can help developers better understand their code and future-proof their productivity.”

Additionally, it should be no surprise that intuitive, easy processes can boost innovation,
while cumbersome processes can sink time and create frustration. The research shows that
developers who have intuitive processes feel they are 50% more innovative. Dermot Russell, director of engineering at Etsy, agrees: “Etsy’s enablement initiatives have
improved developers’ day-to-day experience while also enabling rapid software delivery as our organisation has grown.”

In the world of development, efficient feedback loops are critical. According to the research,
developers who report fast code turnaround times feel 20% more innovative than
developers who don’t. “Getting fast feedback allows you to move along quickly while
maintaining your curiosity and drive. It allows developers to stay in the flow and create the
next great thing,” Kalliamvakou added.

Focusing on improving feedback loops can benefit the organisation’s overall effectiveness
and developer satisfaction. For example, UKG’s VP of developer acceleration, Thomas
Newton, said: “It’s a virtuous cycle: by reducing friction and waste from developers’ daily work, developers can ship high-quality software faster, while also improving happiness and engagement.”

There’s another benefit to quick feedback loops: teams that provide faster responses to
developers’ questions report 50% less technical debt. In other words, good documentation
pays off. Documenting common developer questions and putting tooling in place that
enables them to easily find the responses they need, allows developers to increase their
agility. At the end of the day, nimble developers beget nimble teams and organisations.

“So often, if you’re a developer, you have to wait for feedback,” Forsgren adds. ”You get
interrupted. You’re constantly stalled. You have to figure out a cumbersome process. But if,
instead, you can collaborate quickly, have no interruptions, use intuitive technologies, and stay in the flow—that’s when you can problem-solve, be creative, and get work done, which will benefit the team and entire org.” Software creation is critical for innovation. Across all industries, companies need to build and maintain high-quality software to meet their goals. As such, investing in DevEx is a must.

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