Why greater autonomy is the future of software development

Atlassian releases first-ever State of the Developer report.

There’s a lot that our industry knows about developers: their preferred coding languages, frameworks, and cloud platforms. But what do we know about the exceedingly important yet more intangible things like how developers prefer to work and what they want to work on?

In our current competitive talent landscape, it’s crucial for leaders to gain a better understanding of the important aspects of software development work in order to keep their developers happy.

In our first-ever State of the Developer report, we did just that. We ran a survey and asked more than 2,000 developers across Australia, Germany, India, and the US to share their thoughts. The results uncovered important trends in how developer attitudes and preferences about their work have changed over the past year.

Get the full report here and read on for the top four trends that leaders should consider when building and managing their development teams:

1. Developer autonomy trumps all

Our research shows that greater autonomy makes developers happier at work, despite more frequent context switching and increased job complexity (over 80%). Additionally, developers who enjoy more autonomy tend to spend more time coding and are able to work on a greater number of products and services. Company size can also play a big factor, with autonomy levels highest among developers within larger companies (250-1,000 employees). At a time when work is growing more distributed, providing developers with greater autonomy will be more important than ever, especially within smaller and very large companies.

2. Developers are taking more responsibility

The rise of ‘You build it, you run it’ (YBIYRI) as a practice has seen development teams doing more to support the code they work with. Our research shows almost 60% of developers now work this way, with a larger number agreeing that they should be responsible for more of the software product lifecycle than they currently are (over 65%). Developers who are close to a product or service have the potential to improve it further when given a high degree of ownership. Engineering leaders should create more space for development teams to take on YBIYRI responsibilities, ensuring they have the right tools, processes, and rituals to be successful.

3. Coding or tooling is a matter of preference

Two-thirds of developers say writing code is the most important skill in their role, but 58% don’t think it will be required in the future. While some developers believe in the future of writing code, others believe tools will ultimately make writing code obsolete, and most developers today are somewhere in between. Managers and team leaders should let developers lean into those preferences rather than dictating “how things are done around here.”

4. Fewer tools aren’t always the best outcome

A majority of developers are using more tools to get work done than before (almost 70%), and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Flexibility in tools is key. Those with more flexible tools say it simplifies their work, making them happier in their roles, while those adopting a growing number of inflexible tools face the risk of tool sprawl. Instead of focusing on the number of tools available, it’s more important to think about the value that each tool brings to your developers.

There’s no one-size-fits-all approach

Every software developer is different. As much as we’d love to give you a simple model that enables your teams to do their best work, the reality is more complicated. The good news is that our State of the Developer report offers useful insights that will help you attract and retain top developer talent.

Greater autonomy is the future of software development. This means more freedom to decide which tools developers use, what they work on, and how that work gets done. While half of the developers we surveyed say they have strong autonomy, there’s still room for improvement.

Atlassian is dedicated to providing the tools that facilitate this alignment and autonomy for teams of all sizes. That’s why we’re also excited to announce the launch of Compass, a single place for developers to collaborate on all the other jobs developers are now doing beyond coding while empowering them with the autonomy to connect the tools they want to use. Register for the upcoming beta version.

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