When people ask me what I do, I tell them I’m in Developer Advocacy/Relations space. Most people look at me confused and say: what? Even folks who are in a software space usually don’t know what this role is.
To help better understand what we do I tell them that we work with developers where our mission is to provide developer education, help developers be successful, help developers solve their problems, and make developers super heroes. Most folks wonder why we have to do that. I tell them that developers today have a lot of influence and some are even making purchasing decisions.
Developers exert a high degree of influence over decisions made in their companies
58% of developers indicated they have budget authority, not merely budget influence
Why do developers have so much influence today?
Many years ago software was purchased by executives and pushed down to developers (top-down approach). In most companies today it’s the complete opposite. Developers try software and if they like it they go to their managers/executives (who has the budget) and ask them to buy the software. Instead of top-down it’s now bottom-up approach. In some companies developers not only influence what software to buy but they also have buying power.
Now, this sounds convincing but I always recommend reading The New Kingmakers by Stephen O’Grady, a really great book which talks about how developers became a coveted audience for tech companies. I encourage folks who are not in software or technical fields to read this book to understand developers today.
The book talks about are four main factors that gave developers super powers:
- Open source software
- Venture Capital money
I will briefly describe the four factors (the book goes into a lot more details of course).
Before open source software, most software was proprietary and usually expensive. Mostly large corporations were buying software. With emergence of open source in mid-90s, developers could now use software for free (also bypassing traditional procurement), contribute to open source and innovate.
Before internet developers were limited to work opportunities where they lived. With internet developers can market their skills via tools such as GitHub, blogging and collaborate with anyone, anywhere. Community forums, online learning and social networks gave developers additional powers.
Open source software allowed developers to use software for free and the internet allowed them to market their skills and collaborate with other developers. To build a real company you still needed a data center with a lot of compute power (servers). Amazon helped solve this with AWS. AWS allowed developers to rent servers (and scale) with a few clicks without needing to run and maintain data centers.
Open source software, the internet and the cloud gave developers a lot of power. But, you still needed money to build a company. VC’s such as Y Combinator would invest $20k into startups. Now, $20k might now seem like a lot of money but if you consider that a lot of the software was free or cheap and cloud computing was becoming cheaper every year – $20k would give companies a lot of runway.
The book was published in 2013 and developer’s influence I believe has only grown more since then. The four factors mentioned above gave rapid growth to software delivered over the internet (Software as a Service or SaaS) where developers can sign-up, try and evaluate software very quickly. If they like the software — the software helps them do their job faster, it solves a problem — they can as easily purchase a subscription (a few clicks with a credit card). Or, if they don’t have purchasing power (or the purchase amount if above their clip level) they will ask their managers to make the purchase. This is a perfect example of the new bottom –> up approach.
Developer Advocates help developers be successful with a software, they provide developer education (via meetups, workshops, conferences, online events, etc), answer questions, show solutions, pass their feedback back to the company – in other words, help them be awesome and super heroes.