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Creating a developer community is a $1 billion bet for tech companies

Creating a developer community is a $1 billion bet for tech companies,
Image credit: Progress/Infobip
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While tech products and various services are the essence of what tech companies nowadays provide, most of these companies themselves are also serving the developer market, as the majority of their workforce consists of developers. However, only a handfull of companies have so far managed to add a C level executive to focus on developers – and Croatian communication software company Infobip is among the first to do so. Last year, it appointed a first-ever Chief Developer Experience Officer (CDXO).

CDXO, also sometimes referred to as the Chief Developer Relations Officer (CDRO), is a corporate executive that represents the voice of the developers at the executive team level. They ensure that all efforts created towards the developer and dev community are coordinated and connected to the core strategy and objectives of the company.

Providing a positive developer experience

One of the primary goals of a CDXO is to continuously provide and improve a positive developer experience (DX), with the end goal of guiding developers to become customers. CDXOs help in creating awareness, communicating the value proposition, and assisting with the developer journey.

Infobip’s current CDXO, Ivan Burazin, is a seasoned entrepreneur and founder of the biggest developer event in the SEE region – the Shift conference. Assuming the role of the company’s first CDXO is definitely an exciting experience, he says.

“I believe that Infobip is actually the first to have a CDXO or even a CDRO role for that matter. More and more companies are becoming API companies, as shown by a study by RapidAPI with 96% of companies offering their API to be built-on. Every company that offers an API needs to serve the developer as a customer through an exciting digital transformation,” Burazin tells The Recursive.

In turn, this has led to a rise of Developer Advocates, and Developer Experience/ Relations teams and departments called Developer Experience and/Relations, whose sole purpose is to engage with the community.

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As Burazin explains, companies in the cloud communications space generate up to 40% of their revenue through developer communities, which is about $1 billion of revenue per company.

Therefore, it is becoming increasingly important to companies to have these positions that cater to creating and nurturing these developer communities, not only on entry level but executive level as well. 

US software company Progress that is present in Sofia, Bulgaria is also among the pioneers that have introduced the role. According to the company’s director of developer relations, Sara Faatz, the dev community is already there when a company forms around a product or an idea.

“The reality is that the engineers on our product teams, the techies supporting our clients, the developers developing platforms with our products – they are all part of the dev community. So, it is impossible for a tech company to not be part of the dev community when its people already are the dev community itself,” Faatz tells The Recursive.

Relying on the dev community to improve working processes within companies

For any tech company that has been in the tech space for a while, relying on the community for genuine feedback can save tens of thousands on formal research, it can provide an additional data point when looking into improving, and it could keep the company informed on the latest trends.

“For us – the community has guided us to which technologies to add to our stack, which channels of communication to focus on and which trends to follow. And like any network of friends – if you put in the time and effort and bring your authentic self to the community, when the going gets rough, you have someone to fall back on. And in times like these – this is a luxury a few can afford,” Faatz emphasizes.

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At the same time, developers have become one of – if not the most important buyers of technology and infrastructure as demand has been driven by the growing startup culture, Infobip’s Burazin explains.

“Ultimately though, there’s been a change in approach, with companies realizing that selling to a developer isn’t just about securing a ‘big deal’. It’s about working with developers to understand and solve problems and promote a ‘try and test’ approach,” he tells The Recursive.

Traditional manners of marketing to the consumer are different when approaching developers, as most of them are looking for solutions to a problem, and are resistant to anything that looks, sounds or smells like marketing,” Burazin further points out.

“The most successful way of ensuring they are aware of your product or solution is by being part of the community. Most importantly it’s not just about getting your message across, it’s about listening to the community, and using it as a feedback loop mechanism so that your company can incorporate feedback back into product development as quickly as possible,” he adds.

Enormous market with potential that grows by the hour

Currently, there are over 23 million developers in the world, with a year of year growth of 30 percent. As it is becoming an enormous market that is growing extraordinarily fast, Burazin anticipates that there will be even more companies actively pursuing the market.

“This will happen through directly creating products for developers – “Developer First” companies. On top of that, we have companies that will inherently target developers as they open their platform, which we call “Developer Plus” – here, developers are an additional market they serve,” he tells The Recursive.

According to Faatz, companies should also aim to invest and put effort in the community they are already a part of.

“Your people are part of the community, so you are part of it – maybe not a prominent one yet, but it is within your power to become a voice within the field of your technology, your industry, your office’s locale. And if you do have the courage to genuinely become part of the developer community and help nurture it, the returns are amazing,” Faatz says.

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According to her, as the dev community grows by the hour and continuously creates new and exciting tech, its influence will only bring new tech stacks, new industry hubs and a more prominent focus on innovation.

“So, it would be wise to say that the dev community can and will make or break a tech company and its role will only grow. Companies who recognize that and make a move towards investing into community efforts can only gain a competitive advantage in an already highly competitive industry,” Faatz tells The Recursive.

While the process of improving the developer experience and supporting the developer community is not as simple as just opening up a platform, companies should also focus on having the right investments for having a strong digital transformation that would attract developers, Burazin adds.

“The sooner you can bring developer collaboration into the design and implementation of a product, and model products around that, the sooner you’ll be able to make the most of this influential, fast-growing and exciting market,” Burazin concludes. 

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Bojan is The Recursive’s Western Balkans Editor, covering tech, innovation, and business for more than a decade. He’s currently exploring blockchain, Industry 4.0, AI, and is always open to covering diverse and exciting topics in the Western Balkans countries. His work has been featured in global media outlets such as Foreign Policy, WSJ, ZDNet, and Balkan Insight.