Tackling the Developer/IT Disconnect: Sobering Stats and Forward-Thinking Solutions

By Juan Orlandini, Chief Technology Officer, North America & Distinguished Engineer

The AMC show “Halt and Catch Fire” gives a realistic look at tech in the ‘80s and ‘90s — including the all-too-common tension between IT engineer and developer.

Gordon (IT engineer) is ambitious yet cautious, intimately aware of the capabilities and limitations of the technology he is forever tinkering with. Cameron (programmer/developer) is a bit of a creative genius, translating rich fantasy into perfect code with style and spunk. Their relationship dynamic is compelling: They need each other yet resent each other at the same time.

So when I saw the results of our Insight-commissioned IDG survey “The Path to Digital Transformation: Where IT Leaders Stand in 2022,” it made me wonder if things have really changed all that much in the past few decades. A whopping 87% of leaders surveyed claim that the developer/IT relationship is hindering their organization’s ability to take advantage of digital transformation. Yikes!

Root causes

Instead of looking away from this statistic in anguish, let’s take a closer look at why developer and IT teams may be having difficulties getting along.

  • The cloud. With cloud, developers can instantly provision or gain access to the infrastructure and services they need to quickly build almost anything they want. In the world we live in, time to value is paramount and the cloud is a natural enabler. However, this has created considerable issues for some companies around utilization costs, governance, and security. Without proper governance and control, pseudo (or actual) shadow IT makes it difficult (or impossible) to maintain proper cost controls, security, and any other measures that the business is required to meet. And for decades, IT’s job was to provide both the developer experience and the governance, cost controls, security, etc. The real conundrum is how to allow developers to leverage the tools that will enable their goals while allowing IT to continue their mission. Developers may see cloud as a replacement for IT, when really, developers, IT, and the cloud all offer distinct perspectives and benefits for an organization when they work together cohesively.
  • The need for speed. Speed has always been an essential ingredient for businesses — getting to market faster than others, responding to customer needs more quickly than others, etc. True innovation and differentiation are only possible today if you’re nimble and agile, as most everyone has access to the same technologies and tool sets that you do. The point? Developers are under a lot of pressure. Pressure to deliver, to invent, and to reinvent quickly, so that the business can get a leg up on its competition. In trying to move fast, developers may find themselves at odds with groups like IT that have other priorities to juggle.
  • Incomplete or immature digital strategies from the top. Some of the politics and points of contention between developers and IT could be avoided if executives created and more clearly communicated unifying, high-level digital transformation strategies. Developers and IT should be aligned on what the business wants to achieve and how it plans to do so — based on what directors and the C-suite determine. Strong digital leadership with an understanding of the nuances of transformation initiatives is rare. This is because the digital transformation era is still relatively new for many — and long-term best practices are still being explored and solidified.

Paths to peace

Marrying the interests and efforts of developers and IT may take time, but it’s well worth it. Puppet’s “2021 State of DevOps Report” reveals that great platform teams scale out the benefits of DevOps initiatives. The report tells us:

  • Enterprises are held back from evolving to the highest levels [of DevOps maturity and performance] by organizational structure and dynamics.
  • Highly evolved firms use a combination of stream-aligned teams and platform teams to manage team cognitive load at scale.
  • 91% of highly evolved teams report a clear understanding of their responsibilities to other teams compared to only 46% of low-evolution teams.

Furthermore, the report states that organizations should not expect to become highly evolved just because they use cloud and automation.

In Insight’s survey, 44% of respondents said their organizations are restructuring to bridge gaps between infrastructure and developer teams to properly fund innovation projects. However, this can take many forms.

I propose a few winning strategies that span people, processes, and tools:

  1. Make your on-premises infrastructure developer-centric. When your developers interact with private infrastructure, it should feel like it speaks to them. The first thing they should interact with is an API — something they’re familiar with. Use tools such as automation and gateways to add ease and simplicity.
  2. Address cultural challenges head-on. Don’t let things fester longer than they need to. Silos are serious hindrances to businesses and will cause bottom-line problems quickly. Bring in outside help if needed.
  3. Prioritize modern IT operations. Lay the groundwork for successful DevOps and optimal relationships between IT and developer teams with modern IT operations, or IT ModOps. IT ModOps is an operating model with platform engineering at its core, providing developers with a familiar working experience regardless of the platform on which compute is performed.
  4. Insight can help you determine areas of opportunity and build actionable strategies. Learn more about it with this infographic or contact us directly to discuss ways we can help.