9 Rules for the Developer-ization of IT

CIOs who want to drive innovation and change in their organizations should focus on making the lives of developers easier so they can innovate, produce great apps and deliver valuable IP.

developer-ization of IT
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The acceptance of SaaS, the cloud and other easily accessible technologies allow the lines of business to drive innovation without necessarily turning to IT for help.

While the CIO can take back some of that ground by becoming a broker and orchestrator of services, the real key to driving innovation and change today is app development, according to Jim Franklin, CEO of SendGrid, a largest provider of email infrastructure as a service.

Franklin says that much like the consumerization of IT that has been underway for several years, CIOs now need to embrace the "developer-ization of IT," which is about allowing developers to focus on innovating, producing great apps and delivering valuable IP.

Rule 1: Embrace the Public Cloud
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Rule 1: Embrace the Public Cloud

The public cloud offers developers access to scalable, flexible infrastructure. With it, they can scale up as necessary while consuming only what they need. The efficiencies created by the scale at which public clouds operate are something you just can't replicate on your own.

"There's no need to reinvent the wheel by building servers, storage and services on your own," Franklin says. "This will shave precious time off of project schedules, reduce time to market and lower costs significantly.

Rule 2: Adopt Enterprise Developer Marketplaces
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Rule 2: Adopt Enterprise Developer Marketplaces

Access to marketplaces full of enterprise-ready tools and APIs will allow your developers to build better applications faster.

"Embrace the new breed of enterprise developer marketplaces," Franklin says. "Give developers access to more tools that are enterprise-ready. An emerging set of marketplaces from Windows Azure, Heroku and Red Hat provide a variety of new tools and services to ramp up application development productivity."

Rule 3: Forget Long-Term Contracts for Tools and Services
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Rule 3: Forget Long-Term Contracts for Tools and Services

A long-term contract for a service or tool may make financial sense, but can be a barrier to developer efficiency and agility. Instead, make it as easy as possible for developers to self-select the best tool for the job at hand.

"The nature of application development can be very transitory at times," Franklin says. "Developers may need one service or tool one day and then pivot on to something else the next and they like to try and test tools before they make a financial commitment. Make the process of using different tools and vendors frictionless for them so they can self-select the tools they want. Long-term contracts impede this since approvals are needed from procurement or legal and this can draw out the process."

Rule 4: Recognize That Developers Speak Their Own Language
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Rule 4: Recognize that Developers Speak Their Own Language

When trying to communicate with developers — whether you're trying to attract talent, project manage or target them for sales — tailor your messages for a highly technical audience and use the communication channels they're comfortable with. This could mean user forums, hackathons or social media.

"The key is trying to be very flexible and open," Franklin says. "Hackathons have really become a strong trend because of the power of letting people show their creativity in a lot of different ways."

Rule 5: Give Developers Freedom With Controls
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Rule 5: Give Developers Freedom With Controls

Creative solutions require the ability to experiment freely. Embrace that, but also put some controls in place for your own peace of mind. Franklin suggests deploying API management solutions and monitoring tools so IT can have a window in the traffic flowing through the network and can ensure security measures are taken into account.

Rule 6: Don't Get Locked Down by a Platform or Language
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Rule 6: Don't Get Locked Down by a Platform or Language

Encourage your developers to build apps that are platform agnostic across Web, mobile and for Internet of Things devices from the start. Designing apps to be platform agnostic in the first place can save developers a lot of grief in the long-term.

"Rather than building for the Web and then adding a mobile extension later, developers should keep this in mind at the start of the app development process," Franklin says. "If an application has a physical aspect to it, developers should be encouraged to define, deploy, communicate and manage the IoT application in a scalable fashion from the start."

Rule 7: Give Developers Space to Pursue Their Own Projects
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Rule 7: Give Developers Space to Pursue Their Own Projects

Developers are creative people with a natural love for making things. They'll be happiest if you provide them with a collaborative, creative outlet for their own projects, and they may just solve an intractable problem in the process."

"While the Google 20 percent idea — where employees used to take one day a week to work on side projects — may not work for everyone, understand that developers have an inherent desire to share new tools, hacks, shortcuts and passion projects with their peers," Franklin says. "Give them time to do this at work. Some of these ideas may end up in your products. Gmail, AdSense and Google Hangouts, for example, all started as side projects of Google employees."

Rule 8: Set Standards for Coding in RESTful, Modern APIs
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Rule 8: Set Standards for Coding in RESTful, Modern APIs

Issue a set of best practices related to usable standards like REST. This, Franklin says, will allow developers to more rapidly build applications that access and act upon data exposed via APIs, even in environments with unreliable network speeds and limited computing power."

REST also makes it easy for humans to understand what's being exchanged while allowing computers to talk to one another efficiently," Franklin adds.

Rule 9: Embrace the Hacker/Maker Culture
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Rule 9: Embrace the Hacker/Maker Culture

Developers come up with creative solutions to problems, especially elegant solutions that deliver maximum results with minimum effort. Embrace that and your developers will flourish.

"The hackers of today are much less often people with intentions of taking down your website or accessing your private data," Franklin says. "More often they are technical tinkerers who use unorthodox means to build creative solutions to address challenges and inconveniences of everyday life. This is a societal movement that IT professionals should recognize and leverage to their and everyone's advantage. Whether it's through learning to code, hacking hardware or simply involving developers in the problem-solving and decision-making processes, this effort can lead to many benefits."