What developers want from a platform provider

Most platforms do not effectively address all their priorities, according to results of new research from Accenture.

The Accenture 2018 Developer Ecosystem Survey gathered input from more than 750 US -based developers to determine what they look for in a platform provider, which is particularly important given the critical role developers play in a platform’s adoption and success.

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According to the report, developers look for five key things in a platform provider: accurate content, effective support, market relevance, differentiation and education:

Accurate content makes all the difference

Technically accurate and up-to-date content rank as the two most important elements in a company’s developer ecosystem of the 15 elements the research queried – again, indicative of the pragmatic nature of this community. In fact, 9 in 10 professional developers rate these elements as critical. That content is findable and readable also ranks high in importance. This makes sense, since developers’ most preferred channel for getting questions answered is reading documentation and searching for answers on their own.

Overall, just 24 percent of developers strongly agree that developer ecosystems are generally good at providing the content they need. With developers screaming for accurate and up-to-date content, this is an area where ecosystems need to invest.

That’s not an easy feat – as soon as documentation goes up it becomes obsolete – but having a developer feedback loop in place can help considerably in keeping content vibrant.

Support is a close second to content

Developers rank timely, knowledgeable and capable support just after accurate and current content. While developers want the right answer quickly, they rate knowledgeable support as more important than timely support by a small margin.

Getting it right trumps getting it quickly if a trade-off is required.

Improving support begins with knowing one’s developer audience, understanding the inherent nuances and tailoring support accordingly. Companies should consider customizing the range of support channels to specific segments, ensuring that service level agreements (SLAs) are published and met, focusing on near real-time support for critical developer activities and being authentic, open and honest when issues arise.

Content and support are tightly integrated, with content being an important first line of support. Enhancing often-static content by enabling developers to communicate with their peers in supported forums (internal and external) can help a platform stand out in developers’ minds for both content strength and support.

Market positioning matters

Nearly 90 percent of professional developers rate market relevance as important compared to 64 percent of hobbyists. Reputation also matters, more so to those with more than ten years of experience than new developers.

Webinars and tutorials can be strong marketing vehicles to provide the educational value developers crave. Focusing on value, and giving developers the opportunity to solve challenging problems through the platform’s capabilities, effectively allows the technology to market itself.

Developers are typically curious, smart and part of a tight-knit, sharing community. They are continually searching for new and inspiring solutions. If the technology offers the opportunity to accomplish their objectives then developers will find it, endorse it and share it.

There’s room for companies to differentiate

Developers associate different platforms with different strengths. For example, developers in the study consider AWS the most future looking. Google Cloud Platform is considered the most innovative and caring about the needs of professional developers. And iOS has the most credibility among hard-core developers.

But there’s wide-open opportunity for platforms to differentiate their developer ecosystems. Nearly half of developers think that all developer ecosystems are pretty much the same in terms of usefulness. If such differentiation can be accomplished, developers will respond.

What would motivate developers to switch? At a macro level, developers report they’d switch to ecosystems they perceive to be focused on the latest technology, future-looking, developer-friendly and helping them build their career. However, programming is a logical discipline and Accenture’s study shows that programmers very much value those things that help them solve problems and do their job better and more efficiently. That means content and support are gateways to success.

Standing out from the crowd

Gaining a deeper, more nuanced understanding of who is in the ecosystem is a good first step but an emphasis on improving content, education and support is also required. Rethinking the interactions and developer journeys can result in a more active and value-creating community.

There is still significant opportunity for savvy companies to become the preferred platform for development. The game isn’t over, but action is needed now.

As the industry becomes more congested, barriers to entry continue to lower and developers can more easily move across platforms, there’s little room for companies to assume the strength of their technology alone will attract and retain developers. Those responsible for developer ecosystems need to understand what developers think of their ecosystem, determine where their ecosystem capabilities stand relative to peers and define actions that will help them move their ecosystems toward differentiation and best-in-class.


    About The Author


    Arti has been writing and editing for seven years in the fields of technology, business and finance. She is particularly interested in how firms are innovating to bring us into the next digital age.

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