Money and free food won’t keep your devs happy

Every company is a technology company. Software development is becoming a commodity, and good developers are scarce. Anyone leading a team of developers that don’t understand that the value they can bring goes beyond the code will fail to attract and keep the best ones.

There is little doubt that software developers have seen a big change in status on the last couple of years. Ten years ago, when I was a developer, it would have been unthinkable that in such a short time a profession usually underestimated would have the status it has today. Companies are literally fighting for developers, but even among those who usually win, there is still little understanding about software development outside the tech teams.

But why good developers are so scarce nowadays?

There was a time when software was meant to automate things. The company would hire a couple guys and call it the IT department, and outsource as much as possible to reduce costs. Today, many of the biggest companies in the world can’t distinguish from business and software.

People’s relationship with technology has also changed. Technology promises a world where anything can be solved with a smartphone and an App. We got so used to it to forget that problems could be also solved without any technology involved. Breastfeeding and Meditation apps? Seriously?

I once took part in a company’s sort of hackathon, and it was not a traditional one. The company offered us the chance to hack the company itself, challenging the teams to come up with ideas that would improve the company for all employees. From the 16 participating teams, 15 suggested developing some sort of App. It was not a coincidence.

In a larger scale, this is what is also happening with many big corporations, even ones outside the technology industry. That’s why developers are so scarce, no matter if half of the kids going to university want to learn some programming language to eventually build the next Facebook. There is still way too many useless apps to be developed.

Finally, where most companies fail even when they manage to hire the best developers available?

When success is measured by the number of lines of codes, sprint story points, or the number of releases. Any regular developer with some experience can be very good on these metrics.

The use of wrong performance metrics will also undermine the real potential of the development team, as they will be probably left out of any decision making process. By doing that product manager and other stakeholders will hold back the entire team in at least the following aspects:

  • It narrows the potential of the team, diminishing motivation, and creativity. A product vision that is not shared by everyone in the team is only someone else dreams.
  • It won’t create ownership within the team, with the product manager feeling solely responsible for the initiatives and the developers only doing what they are told to do, and nothing else.
  • There’s a constant need for micromanagement or project management to keep track of what is happening. Status meetings or shared documents are the first symptoms of a team that don’t decide on things together.

Every company is a technology company. Software development is becoming a commodity, and good developers are scarce. Anyone leading a team of developers that don’t understand that the value they can bring goes beyond the code will fail to attract and keep the best ones.

This story is published in The Startup, Medium’s largest entrepreneurship publication followed by +403,714 people.

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