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A great developer experience is key to any transformative software platform

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© Andrew Latreille

by Steve Wood, SVP Product, Platform at Slack

Let’s face it: not every product is cut out to be a platform. To build a true platform carries a responsibility that not all enterprise products are ready to take on — to give as much as you get, listen more than you speak, and honor the trust it takes to build on top of your product. But in return, you get more than you could ever accomplish alone.

The champions of a great platform are the developers who build on top of it. As a catalyst for your product and some of the most important members of your business, enterprise developers help deeply customize your software so that it meets their organization’s unique needs It’s a win win — they’re able to build time-saving automations that help create efficiencies and cost savings, and you’re able to ensure customers are happy and getting the most ROI out of your software.

When you optimize for the developer experience from day one, you’re empowering builders and coders to take your software beyond what it could do off the shelf. This is more important than ever as we continue to work and build in a Digital HQ – a place that’s connected, flexible, distributed, and requires collaboration across tools and systems.

What happens when you ignore the developer experience?

Developers building on a platform want to spend minimal time on the tedious, roundabout work that keeps them from their expertise: problem solving with code. What sets great developers apart is their discernment and willingness to try new products. But if your product isn’t working for them, they’ll often find a better alternative, fast.

A poor developer experience can lead to an array of problems: they’ll cut corners, they won’t invest as much as they could in the user experience, they won’t keep up with new features, or they’ll even stop working with the platform entirely. And if developers won’t build on a platform, then end users ultimately cannot realize the benefits of that platform. You’re effectively losing the trust of a core constituency: first adopters, the innovators, and the loyal users.

But what happens when developers are deliberately considered an equal audience to end users from the beginning, and a company builds intuitive APIs and developer tools in parallel with their front-end, out-of-the-box product features?

You get a platform-first company that’s secure, trustworthy, and naturally works well with any existing tool stack from the get go.

At Slack, we understood this early. We’ve spent years building a comprehensive platform that enables developers from hundreds of thousands of companies – from Autodesk to Zoom – to save their teams time and money by coding, building, and automating work within Slack.

The latest generation of our platform introduces new tools and services so developers can create reusable app “building blocks.” Developers can use these blocks “lego-style” to build powerful automations, and share the blocks with other developers and non-technical users. We’ve also introduced a new CLI that makes managing Slack apps simple and fully automatable; published software developer kits for multiple programming languages; eliminated time consuming-processes to significantly reduce the time from taking an app from idea to production; and established a secure development and deployment environment.

By providing developers with convenient tooling, faster ways to write apps, and even more pleasant and intuitive experiences, Slack customers have pushed the limits of what the platform can do for them. Nearly all of our paid customers have built automations in Slack to drive better business outcomes — from Vodafone resolving incidents 75% faster to Hearst Magazines tripling affiliate e-commerce revenue. In a recent customer survey, Slack enterprise customers reported a 29% increase in time savings from automation and 30% increase in engagement with integrated apps since implementing Slack. Now that’s the power of a developer community – they’ll find ways to get more out of your software and achieve results that wouldn’t be possible with your standalone product.

Prioritizing the developer experience will pay dividends for your product, your developers, and your end users. And for us at Slack, that means bringing developers along for the ride – listening, learning, engaging, and building trust. Because we know that in order for our customers to get the most out of their digital HQ, we’ll need to enable the broadest range of developers to build on it first.

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