Extend’s Developer Experience team exemplifies the forward-thinking mindset of not being solely focused on tooling. Instead, they view their team’s scope more broadly by also focusing on internal processes and cultural dynamics, all with the goal of solving problems that are blocking developers within the organization.
“Our whole goal is to make engineers at the company our customers,” says Matthew Schrepel, who leads Extend’s Developer Experience team. “Sometimes the best solutions to problems aren’t code-based. Sometimes the best solution for problems developers are experiencing are based in training, process, education, documentation, or expectation setting.”
In the past, the DevEx team used various channels to gather feedback and develop their roadmap. However, Luke Patterson, Senior Staff Learning & Development Engineer on the DevEx team, describes that these methods were more ad hoc, and the team felt the need to have something more robust in order to get a sense of how the system and organization was doing.
The DevEx team explored Google Forms and CultureAmp surveys before DX, however these proved to be challenging. Patterson says there was a heavy lift involved in effectively using these tools for their purpose, including writing questions, maintaining the program, and distributing the results. “All of that was a lot of work,” Patterson adds. “There was so much that you had to put into it to keep it rolling.”
“It was hard to get people to participate with Google Forms, and the aggregation was just okay in terms of results,” Schrepel adds. “But there was a lot of manual work that had to happen behind the scenes in order to turn that into really usable data, and it was also so easy for the questions to be far too specific or far too vague or leading. Then there was CultureAmp, which had more automation around it, but you still had a lot of the same problems.”
The team also explored using data from a Git metrics tool as an input for their roadmap. Rami Leshem, VP of Platform Engineering, explains, “At the beginning I thought DX could be a supplement for [this tool], but using both products in parallel changed my perspective. I now look at [that tool] for a somewhat supplement of DX, with DX being the most truthful gauge of where we are as an organization.”
“What Git and Jira-based metrics tools don't give you is any insight or idea into what your long-term strategy should be,” Schrepel adds. “It’s almost purely tactical. You look at that stuff and say, ‘Oh the PR numbers are down.’ Now what?”
With DX, Extend’s DevEx team has led organization-wide initiatives such as improving test efficiency, and also focuses on engaging individual development teams to drive their own improvements.
After each DX snapshot, the DevEx team puts together an executive summary as a way to inform everyone what the health of engineering is. “The executive summary shares the top organization-level problems we’ve identified as a team along with our suggested solutions,” says Schrepel. “Having this summary go all the way to the board has been a win for us.”
Test efficiency is an example of an organization-level problem the DevEx team has focused on. “Our sentiment score for test efficiency was low,” Schrepel recalls. “We focused on that in a few ways, including new tooling, a change in process, and setting up office hours with our testing architect. We’ve seen our sentiment score increase every snapshot since.”
With team-level problems, DX automates the process of showing teams what problems are unique to them, while also facilitating the workflow to set focus areas. The DevEx team provides guidance to the teams to help them take action. Schrepel says this process has been very self-directed, however he recognizes the importance of having a leadership team that has made the effort to encourage teams to give time to this type of work. “Every snapshot, leadership says ‘let’s put time towards these things now. It’s not getting ignored, and they’re not saying ‘let’s push to the next quarter.’ DX has a bottom-up motion to it, but this top-down support has really helped.”
“We’re really happy with the process we’ve set up with DX,” says Schrepel. “It’s shown to be successful enough to go all the way up to the board as a metric that we say accurately represents the health of engineering. That’s a big deal.”
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