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IT pros want to feel safe taking risks, survey finds

Feature management platform LaunchDarkly finds that–duh–no one likes not being trusted.
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Tom Werner / Getty Images

· 3 min read

Retaining software devs and IT pros has everything to do with allowing them to take risks, according to a new survey by feature flag and toggle platform LaunchDarkly.

LaunchDarkly surveyed 500 U.S. software developers at companies with a minimum of 100 employees and found broad agreement workplaces that encourage psychological safety—the confidence to speak up or take risks without fear of unwarranted backlash—empowers them to innovate more. The survey also found that 67% of developers know someone who left a job over pressure to minimize deployment errors, while 52% of respondents reported their workplaces encourage only low levels of risk or pressure them to minimize rollbacks.

With massive releases giving way to models that emphasize smaller, more frequent updates, Ravi Tharisayi, LaunchDarkly’s senior director of product marketing, told IT Brew, leadership can help by emphasizing positive developer outcomes like code quality or code in production.

“One of the interesting findings was that when leadership places in improving developer outcomes as either a top or large priority, our survey found that 91% of developers in those organizations said that they were very satisfied with their jobs,” Tharisayi said. “And these developers were more than twice as likely to say their company is much more innovative than their peers.”

The survey also indicated that where positive developer outcomes are the priority, teams were far more likely to be rolling out new code to customers on a weekly basis or even more frequently.

While 100% of respondents agreed that new development approaches can benefit business outcomes, 61% felt company processes either significantly or somewhat hindered efforts to come up with innovative solutions. Nearly half of respondents (49%) said changes to code require manual approval “most or all of the time,” even though prior research, such as the DevOps Research and Assessment program, has indicated streamlined processes such as more automatic approvals are important for things like a healthy work environment and minimizing burnout.

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Tharisayi told IT Brew the survey clearly indicates “overly heavyweight process can negatively impact software outcomes.”

“Our survey found that overly manual approvals certainly causes developers to lower their developer satisfaction and—aligned with what has been found in other research—ultimately leads to slower deployments and slower and worse outcomes for organizations,” Tharisayi said. “So this notion of having streamline processes in place that mitigate risks, but allow organizations to continue to meet the innovation needs of the business are very critical.”

Tharisayi said modern software development can use a variety of techniques to streamline releases. For example, there’s canary testing, in which some customers aren’t made aware they are running new code, or blue/green deployment, which uses parallel environments running current and new versions to provide a fallback if something goes wrong.

“And we think more organizations and development teams can explore to put in place the right guard rails to feel confident when deploying new capabilities and releasing new features,” Tharisayi said.—TM

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Top insights for IT pros

From cybersecurity and big data to software development and gaming. Our IT Brew newsletter delivers the latest news and analysis of trends shaping the IT industry, like only The Brew can.