Jonathan Bennett

I Feel the Need…The Need for Productivity

Startups can be split into 3 technical categories: doesn’t matter, supper critical, and it depends. Yes, you can build your ebook company on a no-code Wordpress plugin. For your blockchain powered AI startup, you already know what you are using. That final category, that one I find super interesting.

If you have the option of being flexible in the technical choices you make, I think it is hard to go wrong with prioritizing developer productivity.

Making high speed productive changes is a startup’s super power. Because of this, high developer productivity is critical! Developer productivity takes into consideration the efficiency and effectiveness in the production of high-value code that meets your business requirements and fills customer needs.

Here are some of the reasons why developer productivity is so important:

  1. Fast time-to-market: In a startup environment, speed is everything. The faster you can get your product to market, the better chance you have of beating the competition and securing market share. By focusing on developer productivity, you can reduce the time it takes to develop and launch your product, giving you a competitive advantage.
  2. Better quality: While speed is important, quality is equally crucial. A product that‘s launched quickly but is filled with bugs and issues won’t be successful. By prioritizing developer productivity you ensure that your developers have the capacity to produce a high quality product.
  3. Increased agility: Startups need to be nimble and respond quickly to customer feedback. By having highly productive environment you are able to focus on the completion of the task at hand instead of build supporting infrastructure that isn’t core to you actual business problem.
  4. Cost savings: Development is expensive. Increasing productivity and effectiveness increases the bang you are getting for your buck.

With the virtues of developer productivity firmly established, let’s talk about how that can look:

  1. Automation: Automating the testing and deployment of your product can change your life. I worked with a SaaS to take a 5 man hour, error prone, manual testing process (which only covered critical functionality), into a 3 minute automated processes that covered the complete product. This gives an order of magnitude increase in the confidence of your product.
  2. Tools and Training: Provide your developers with the tools, training and support they need to continuously improve their skills and stay up-to-date with the latest technologies and best practices. That said, established technologies should be the foundation of your stack. Very often new technologies come with new sharp edges. If you are bringing in bleeding edge technology make sure it isn’t core to your product, or that it’s easily replaced.
  3. Provide a productive environment: Be aware of the implicit and explicit promises embedded in your environment. If you are using a javascript based development environment, be ready for a 3 month debate about which testing framework you want to use. If you are using Ruby on Rails, you have two choices, make one and let’s move forward. If you are building a native mobile app, make sure you plan for the App Store review time. These things are built into the environment and are difficult to change so make sure you are actively engaged in these choices. There are so many factors to take into consideration that can affect your startup. Increasing developer productivity frees up so many resources and options for the rest of your startup, that it is criminal to not have it as a core consideration while planning your startup.

Now, you might have gotten a sense that I am biased towards thinking that Ruby on Rails should be the default foundation for most start ups (and I am!). That’s not what I am saying. What I am saying, is that if you want to move fast, spending 3 months bike shedding your tech stack isn’t going to get you to your destination.

Bike Shedding Focusing on trivial secondary concern over the primary

Focus on the fundamentals, which for SaaS is speed. Move quick, keep productivity high, and change the world, at least you part of it!