Do Developers Benefit From Fewer Choices?

“Enabling developer productivity has become a key vector in every organization’s success,” writes Matt Asay at InfoWorld — not a nice-to-have feature but a must-have.

“Which is why, perhaps ironically, the best way to set your developers free may actually be to fetter their freedom.”

The more developers mattered, the more everyone wanted to cater to their needs with new software tools, new open source projects, new cloud services, etc. This meant lots of new developer choice and associated freedom, but that wasn’t necessarily an unalloyed good. As RedMonk analyst Steven O’Grady noted in 2017, “The good news is that this developer-driven fragmentation has yielded an incredible array of open source software. The bad news is that, even for developers, managing this fragmentation is challenging.”

Can one have too much choice? Yep.

It’s long been known in consumer retail, for example, that when there is too much choice, “consumers are less likely to buy anything at all, and if they do buy, they are less satisfied with their selection.” Turns out this isn’t just a matter of breakfast cereals or clothing. It also applies to developers building enterprise software. InfoWorld’s Scott Carey writes that “complexity is killing software developers.” He’s right. But what can be done?

In a conversation with Weaveworks CEO Alexis Richardson, he related how self-service development platforms are reemerging to help developers make sense of all that open source and cloud choice. By giving developers “a standard, pre-approved environment in which the effort to create an app from an idea is minimal,” he explained, it allows them to “focus on innovation not plumbing.”
“Done right, a little bit of constraint goes a long way…” Asay argues, touting the benefits of PaaS (platform as a service) self-service development platforms. (“Enterprises that want to give their developers the freedom the cloud affords can couple it with just enough constraint to make that freedom useful…”)

Asay argues that “However you approach it, the point is to stop thinking about freedom and control as impossibly opposed. Smart enterprises are figuring out ways to enable their developers using self-service platforms. Maybe you should, too.”

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