How IT leaders Can (Cautiously) Utilize AI to Improve Developer Experience

Implementing AI tools like GenAI can boost efficiency by up to 20%, reducing costs and enhancing job satisfaction, but requires careful implementation and governance.

Rob Whiteley, CEO, Coder

June 7, 2024

5 Min Read
developer working on a large screen
ArseniiPalivoda via Alamy Stock

This year, the number of software engineers is expected to reach 29 million. This should mean a record output of developer projects; however, developer experience can stand to improve, as developers are tasked with more and more projects outside of their job description - security, onboarding, you name it. If developers could focus on their area of expertise - developing - how could this change a business’ bottom line? 

A 5% improvement in developer efficiency lowers your software engineering costs by 1%. If you employ 10,000 developers, that’s up to $18M in savings. Put simply: Making enterprise developers fractionally more productive is a big deal. It’s why developer experience is a perennial top priority for leaders. It’s also why generative AI (GenAI) is a hot topic among such leaders.  

However, as with any new technology, leaders are responsible for doing proper research -- weighing the pros and cons of implementing a solution like GenAI to our everyday workflows before relying on it.  

Developer productivity and experience are crucial determinants of organizational efficiency and competitiveness. Let’s discuss how we can best ride the AI wave to improve developers’ job satisfaction and output.  

Harnessing AI for Developer Empowerment 

Related:Can Your Developers Benefit from Platform Engineering?

Enterprises increasingly turn to GenAI as a strategic tool to tackle the productivity conundrum head-on. GenAI's promise lies in its ability to augment developer capabilities, enabling them to focus on high-value tasks while automating mundane activities. Studies have shown that developers leveraging GenAI tools can experience up to a 20% boost in efficiency -- a testament to the profound impact AI can have on software development workflows. 

Even further, empowering developers to use AI at work, or simply not dissuading them from doing so, improves job satisfaction. While developers are pretty high on the job satisfaction scale, giving them the tools and freedom to improve both satisfaction and efficiency will lead to happier, more motivated employees.  

Realizing the Potential of AI in Practice 

However, integrating AI into software development workflows presents challenges in a few different areas -- learning to properly use the tools, the accuracy of the generated code and the amount of editing that goes into making it complete, and the fact that you are deciding on a new process for potentially thousands of employees. Overcome these hurdles and unlock the full potential of AI by adopting a phase approach and garnering leadership buy-in. Start small with pilot projects, allow for controlled experimentation and iterative refinement, and ensure that AI initiatives align with organizational goals and measurable results -- the “golden path” of sorts. 

Related:Kyndryl and Nvidia Team Up on Enterprise GenAI Offerings

Balancing Innovation with Governance 

With the current influx of AI innovation, choosing which GenAI tool (or tools) to implement on a corporate level requires a huge amount of choice. Choice of which tools to use. Choice of which individuals get access to those tools. And even choice for individuals to apply different tools to different projects. This becomes an even more serious process when the tools are baked into the product, rather than simply existing as an assistant when needed (hello, ChatGPT). 

The challenge of GenAI in software development is one of governance, not code completion. 

Strike a balance between innovation and governance when embarking on the AI integration journey. AI promises unprecedented efficiency gains, but it's essential to maintain human oversight and ensure the accuracy and integrity of AI-generated outputs. Navigate the complexities of the modern landscape and emerge as a frontrunner in the race for innovation by adhering to best practices and leveraging AI as a strategic ally. 

Related:Why Your Business Should Consider Using Intelligent Applications

A Call to Action 

The era of AI-powered software development is upon us. It offers a transformative opportunity to enhance developer experience, increase and maintain job satisfaction, and drive organizational success. As technology leaders, embrace this evolution and work toward a future where efficiency and creativity can succeed hand in hand -- but not without putting in the work to truly understand it first. Harness the power of AI and unlock new levels of innovation and growth for our developers, customers, and end users.  

Waiting to integrate GenAI makes leaders miss the benefits and impact it can have on the day-to-day lives of developers. Whether setting up a company-wide policy on GenAI usage or getting a sample group together to pilot the technology, organizations must lean in. We must find a way to flip from “we have no idea how to use this technology” to “we have an opinion on how this will help, let’s experiment.” Additionally, figuring out a way to consistently measure the impact of GenAI in the organization -- even if it’s simply a before/after survey for developers to quantify and qualify their experiences. The more developers can share their reasoning for GenAI usage, the more leaders can equip businesses with the true value. 

The time to act is now, but we must do it armed with knowledge and research. GenAI can become a really fun tool to use by simply getting started and measuring progress. Still struggling to get started? Run a simple exercise. Provide your developers a block of undocumented, uncommented code. Give them one hour to document and comment on the code. Encourage them to use AI, but share the tool and prompt used. Afterward, compare the speed and quality of the exercise. Give the winner a coffee gift card! There, for $25 you ran your first GenAI hackathon. 

With the proper understanding, we can harness AI's full potential to propel our organizations -- and our developers -- toward a more efficient future. 

We can make AI not just a tool, but a strategic imperative for success in the digital age. 

About the Author(s)

Rob Whiteley

CEO, Coder

Rob Whiteley serves as CEO of Coder. Previously he was GM of NGINX. He has led marketing, product, and analyst teams for companies like Hedvig, Riverbed, and Forrester. Rob uses his experience working with enterprise IT and DevOps customers to deliver thought leadership and drive demand for modern IT infrastructure solutions. 

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