Today, nearly every organization on the planet is dependent on software. Many organizations develop their own software, from internal apps for tracking inventory to the public-facing services and experiences they deliver to customers. To make sure all that code is fast, bug-free, and a joy to use, they need software developers—really great ones.

Many executives outside of IT don’t know much about developers other than that they’re in high demand. Maybe it’s because not so long ago, developers were those seldom-seen nerds who kept the payroll and email system working properly. Or maybe they’re intimidated because of their lack of technical prowess or have decided it’s an area to delegate. Whatever the case, developers are too critical to the success of the modern business for executives to remain clueless about how to create an environment in which they thrive. So here’s a starter kit:

1. Developers are engineers and artists

Creating great software is harder than it looks. It requires dreaming up solutions to unique business problems, from scratch, and then being accountable for making changes to all the systems to make it work. There’s rarely much margin for error, or forgiveness if a service doesn’t run flawlessly—forever. In an internet world, an application is never a finished product. It must be continuously improved to meet new scale requirements and updated with fresh customer features.

2. Developers measure success differently

For most developers, success means maintaining five-nines reliability, increasing mean time between failure, and getting code quickly into production. It’s about solving a problem in a new way, and shipping without bugs. Developers are focused on key technical metrics

While developers want to measure their success based on business metrics, these metrics are often too lagging or difficult to access. Too often, they will be seen as order takers rather than creative partners that can truly develop innovative solutions that move the business.

3. Developers want to engage with the business

Take the time and effort to help your developers understand what problems your business is facing and how their work is impacting the business and customers. The more developers understand about business goals overall, the more motivated they will be, and the more creative their solutions will be. I’ve seen this time and time again: The more they know about why you are asking them for something, the better the software will be. In exchange, you’ll also get more engaged, loyal, and productive employees and a healthier organization.

4. Developers love technology

This statement may seem obvious, but developers love the tools and technologies they work with. They won’t tolerate working with legacy systems that are old or underperforming. Having a modern technology infrastructure in place is key to attracting and retaining great talent. 

It’s also a good idea to create opportunities where developers can express their mastery of technology, even if it doesn’t contribute directly to their day-to-day responsibilities. Innovation days or hackathons can be great fun and might result in an excellent idea for a new feature or even a new business.

5. Entrepreneurs in the making

Many developers have dreams of starting their own businesses. I advise business leaders to tap into this ambition by helping give developers the responsibility and accountability to develop the business skills they need to build their own company. Yes, you may be more likely to lose them down the road. But for now, you’ll tap into their immense energy and creativity.

6. Recognize and celebrate your developers

Your developers hear about every bug and reliability issue in the code they write. But they rarely hear about the success stories. Dedicate time to thanking the teams that deliver exceptional results and connect them to the results they helped drive. Thank them publicly in all-hands meetings and company-wide communications.

Developers are critical to the software that is driving your business. The best leaders will make it a point to connect with these influencers and help them succeed.

Learn more about how we are extending development on New Relic One.

Alex is Senior Vice President of Engineering at New Relic, responsible for customer facing products. He has a passion for building great teams and has led the engineering effort as New Relic has expanded its product platform. Alex joined New Relic after leading engineering for six years at OpenSourcery, an open source consulting agency. Before OpenSourcery Alex held engineering roles at Cargill and Dark Horse Comics. He holds a B.S in Information Systems from Miami University in Oxford, OH. View posts by .

Interested in writing for New Relic Blog? Send us a pitch!