Culture / DevOps / Technology / Sponsored / Contributed

Why You Ignore Users at Your Own Peril

17 Dec 2019 10:47am, by

Cloud Foundry sponsored this post.

It’s that simple: When developers focus only on the technology or their idea of the problem that needs to be solved — as opposed to the implementation and actual usage of the technology — the software fails. It doesn’t matter how clean the code or how smart the development of the product is if the person trying to use it cannot do so with ease.

Developers must be on the same page as the end users for whom they’re developing software, but too often, users are lost in the conversation.

Break Down Destructive Silos

Abby Kearns
With nearly 20 years in the tech world, Abby is a true veteran of the industry. Her lengthy career has spanned product marketing, product management and consulting across Fortune 500 companies and startups alike. As executive director of Cloud Foundry Foundation, Abby helms the ecosystem of developers, users and applications running on Cloud Foundry and works closely with the board to drive the Foundation’s vision and grow the open source project. Prior to Cloud Foundry Foundation, Abby focused on Pivotal Cloud Foundry as part of the Product Management team at Pivotal.

The goal must be to put your end-user at the forefront — and keep them fresh in your mind as you consider the technology you develop. An end-user can be your customers — someone using your mobile banking application, for example — or an end-user can be internal when someone might use the application to manage your supply chain.

Enterprises must balance the promise of new technology and its evolution by building agile, cross-functional teams and striving for continuous delivery. But that only occurs when the right people are brought to the conversation to talk about their expectations for the future, as well as the challenges that will be confronted along the way.

To create the best possible user experience, back-end and front-end developers need to meet regularly and cultivate an ongoing strategic relationship. Back-end developers primarily focus on the nuts and bolts, programming connections between databases, servers and applications, while front-end developers analyze code, design and debug applications to ensure the look and feel of their app is seamless and intuitive.

I hesitate to frame it in the back-end versus front-end perspective because, while these developers work on completely different stacks, the onus is on the organization to put the end-user at the forefront of its efforts. Every developer  — back-end or front-end — needs to understand this. They also need to communicate why maintaining a close link with the user is critical across their teams and convey it in the products they design and the strategies they follow to iterate on the user experience collectively.

None of this matters without users.

Instead of relegating teams to operate in silos, businesses need to realign on the core vision of what they’re trying to achieve. To accomplish that, users need their voices heard by back-end and front-end teams. Their feedback should be incorporated across developer teams in every aspect of the business to create connective tissue. This is how you start pulling more of the disparate aspects of your business closer together.

How You Unite Front- and Back-End

Like almost everything worth doing, it won’t be easy. It’s not a conversation many people are comfortable with or used to having. When we talk about failing fast, innovating or iterating, what we’re really saying is “how do we reach our customers in new ways?”

Bringing in a third party to facilitate, moderate and encourage productive outcomes can be beneficial. That doesn’t mean you have to hire a big consulting firm and move them into your building for three years, but it would be helpful to bring in a neutral voice to create an environment for those conversations to occur.

This is especially important for developers that work on front- and back-end development. Organizations need to get a little uncomfortable and creative to bring teams together and put them in contact with users to create an experience that has a lasting impact. What works for one business may not work for another, but consider your options.

Is there a member of your team that can initiate deep conversations with users and speak to their wants and concerns in a language that developers will appreciate? Maybe your business has talent in the product development team with a programming background that can synthesize user feedback and deliver it in a way that generates goodwill and interest across the front- and back-end development teams.

Building rapport on this scale with diverse input could require the elevation of a user evangelist or group of specialized evangelists that can fuse helpful criticism from users with the company’s mission. Packaging that as a continuous series of actionable tasks for developers could plant the seeds of the type of challenge that developers of all stripes strive to work through and overcome.

Fostering these conversations and building a feedback channel sounds simple and trite, but it’s probably the hardest thing for organizations to accomplish. In our day-to-day jobs, we rarely step outside of our comfort zone to build a network with outside perspectives, but that’s exactly what technology needs and asks of all of us.

Feature image via Pixabay.

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