How Dell Improved IT Developer Productivity by 275 Percent

If you have any doubts about how vital it is to improve your IT developer experience, by freeing developers from the administrative and manual tasks that drag down their ability to create the software solutions you need, let me ask you a seemingly off-topic question. If you had a manufacturing facility running at only 16 percent productivity, what would you do? The most common response I hear is, “shut it down.”

But this is exactly what’s happening with developer productivity. A recent IDC survey¹ of 2,500 developers showed that they are only spending 16 percent of their time writing the functional code that is so essential to their organizations’ digital transformation. The other 84 percent is taken up with manual and fragmented development processes.

Technology organizations are the lifeblood of all digital transformations. It’s not an option to “shut it down,” as a well-performing organization is the future of your company. But you can take a page from the manufacturing industry, which revolutionized its productivity and efficiency in the 1990s by using new technologies to standardize and automate processes vital to survival. You can also draw inspiration from the sales industry, which gained efficiencies in the 2000s from advancements in CRM technologies, eliminating tedious and repetitive tasks.

You could say IT is entering its own era of standardization and automation, driven by the fact that digital transformation is dependent on developers being able to fully optimize the use of their time.

Dell Digital, Dell’s IT organization, has taken on that challenge over the past several years, after determining that our own developers were bogged down with administrative tasks, spending only 20 percent of their time creating the software our digital transformation depended upon. Since then, we have cracked the code for a world-class developer experiencefreeing our developers to spend 70-75 percent of their time writing functional code.

Our success centers on a layered approach to improve the developer experience, including a fully automated cloud, with a catalog of robust services and a fully automated DevOps pipeline.

Building the Layers

We built our world-class developer experience with a relentless focus on standardization and automation, driven by our infrastructure and DevOps teams working in tandem.

At its foundation is a centralized self-service marketplace within Dell’s private cloud for developers to consume automated infrastructure services. We created the private cloud marketplace by putting a layer on top of Dell Technologies private cloud infrastructure platform which runs on Dell’s hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI), namely VxRail and PowerFlex, at the heart of our modern data center.

Working closely with development teams, we built a self-service catalog that lets developers choose and deploy the capabilities they need—compute, network, database, etc.—in minutes rather than days.

The private cloud marketplace was a starting point, not an end game to maximizing developer experience. From there, we built a standardized DevOps CI/CD pipeline that eliminates manual intervention between code creation and product deployment and support. Developers have everything at their fingertips to manage their application lifecycle autonomously. They can use the pipeline to automatically provision infrastructure; perform functional, performance and security validations; run code quality checks and deploy to production with integrated monitoring and application tracing.

For the next two layers of our approach, we created an API Marketplace and a UX Marketplace where developers can “shop” for shared APIs to fit development needs and for micro front ends (MFEs) and webpage components to build user interface experiences. The API Marketplace is part of our API-first approach in which developers can consume and repurpose assets via this self-service portal. Likewise, the UX Marketplace lets developers leverage sharable, building blocks to create consistent webpage experiences.

And finally, we measure our CI/CD progress, application maturity, application performance, resiliency and more via our DevOps dashboard. Through aligned KPIs we track our progress with granular analytics and reporting to provide feedback to our developers.

The benefits of our layer cake approach to improving our developer experience are clear. Developer productivity has increased by 275 percent. Quality is up and the time it takes to address defects are dropping.

Start Simple with Little Wins

If you are taking on the challenge of improving your developer experience, there are a few basic points you should consider.

First, keep it simple. Your problem statement to solve is that your developer productivity needs to go from 16 percent to 80 percent. It’s not about the number of automations you build. It’s not about anything other than fingers on keyboards and expanding productivity time.

Next, realize that much of what you need to transform is focused on people more than technology. For us, that meant shifting away from the traditional way IT was organized in gigantic teams with multiple handoffs to a product model Where dedicated teams could focus on building independence and capabilities within product areas.

And lastly, realize that forging a new developer experience is an iterative progress, not a big bang one. Don’t underestimate the importance of making little steps toward a broader goal of improving developer experience. You break the inertia by getting little wins, and then before you know it, you look back and you have enough critical mass and have enough of the organization behind you that it starts to drive the organizational change.

A Seat at the Table

Dell Digital has a longstanding tradition of using our own innovative resources and technology to provide first-hand experience and insights in addressing the same problems our customers are facing. In this case, the framework and tools we have created to improve our developer experience are helping to shape the solutions and services that Dell offers to our customers to enable their digital transformation.

In a broader sense, the changes happening within Dell Digital are part of a more extensive shift in this age of technology. Rather than an organization that is often the focus of complaints, IT has become a catalyst for driving change within the company in a world where technology-led organizations are thriving.

At Dell and elsewhere, IT now has a seat at the table and a role in leading company changes via software innovation.

Keep up with our Dell Digital strategies and more at Dell Technologies: Our Digital Transformation.

1 IDC PaaSVew and the Developer Experience 2021

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