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DevOps / Tech Life

Create the Ideal Work Environment for Developers

Some rules for running an effective development shop.
Aug 26th, 2019 2:01pm by
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David Rizzo
David Rizzo is the Vice President of Product Development for Compuware. He has more than 20 years of IT experience with roles in development, architecture and strategic planning.

As enterprises feel pressure to deploy applications faster and more frequently, demand for strong application developer talent is reaching new heights. However, recruiting and retaining top-shelf developer talent can be tough — according to the State of Software Development 2018, development managers cited hiring talent as their biggest challenge.

The ability to attract and retain talent compels organizations to take a close look at their developer work environment and ensure it is fulfilling and rewarding, supporting high degrees of productivity and job satisfaction. What are some core characteristics of this environment?

Foster a Culture of Collaboration

For many organizations, it’s unlikely that any one platform will offer the full span of functionality needed to support all its applications. This realization is leading to increased adoption of hybrid IT, leveraging the best-performing systems at the lowest costs, based on an application’s performance (speed, reliability) and security needs. An example may be a mission-critical e-commerce application, where the frontend web server sits in the cloud, while sensitive customer transactional data sits on a backend legacy system.

The hybrid IT approach, however, is changing how development teams need to work. Because the various components comprising an end-to-end transaction cross multiple platforms, development workflows need to be similar and fully integrated. Tools are needed to eliminate silos between platforms and allow developers to toggle seamlessly across systems through a common user interface.

Additionally, building a collaborative community among developers enables experienced developers to share their methods, techniques and assets with less-experienced colleagues, making it easier to transfer knowledge and onboard new developers.

Eradicate Unnecessary Obstacles

DevOps teams can only move as fast as their weakest link. Mainframe systems have endured due to their unequaled security, reliability and scalability. According to BMC’s most recent report, 92% of mainframe users predict long-term viability for the platform, and 59% reported an increase over the past year in mainframe-based transactions. Yet only 48% are currently using Agile and DevOps practices in their mainframe environments. This failure to adopt modern development practices means that working on the mainframe can be slow and laborious compared to other platforms, and developer productivity and satisfaction can take a hit.

Today’s developers need an environment that enables them to develop and test on mainframe platforms as quickly and efficiently as other systems. Otherwise, organizations often find themselves in a situation where one application component (arguably the most important one) cannot keep up with other components, putting a drag on the entire development effort.

Developers must be coached like high-performance athletes based on KPIs of velocity, quality and efficiency to ensure their continued success, and, therefore, the organization’s success.

Organizations should honestly ask themselves: What do our developers encounter when they analyze a COBOL program — when they edit, test and deploy code? What culture, processes and tools are we offering them to continuously improve at solving new business challenges that involve critical backend systems of record? If you’re still providing the traditional developer experience — one notorious for siloed culture; rigid, experiment-averse processes; and text-based “green screen” tools — don’t expect talented next-gen programmers, whom you desperately need, to settle for this digitally subpar culture.

Benchmark and Offer Concrete Suggestions for Improvements

Specificity has been identified as the most important component of effective feedback. Greater specificity and focusing on concrete metrics enable development teams to continuously improve.

Organizations need to correlate development behaviors with both positive and negative outcomes based on real data. Developers must be coached like high-performance athletes based on KPIs of velocity, quality and efficiency to ensure their continued success, and, therefore, the organization’s success.


The battle for talent rages on, and is a primary reason why many organizations’ development efforts struggle to keep up with the pace of digital business. There are many things organizations can do to enhance the developer work environment — from offering generous compensation packages, to providing ongoing education opportunities and promoting based on merit.

Having the right kind of developer workplace culture — one that emphasizes collaboration; removes frustrating obstacles in the course of delivering end-to-end applications; and provides on-going, specific feedback developers need to get better at their jobs — is critical.

Providing a modern development environment that enables programmers of all skill levels develop and test on mainframe platforms as quickly and efficiently as other systems is also imperative.

Ultimately, these factors together create more productive, happier developers, who increasingly hold the keys to unlocking a competitive edge in the digital age.

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