- Part 1 describes the importance of engendering support from external developers to ensure success of innovative technologies.
- Part 2 delineates what energizes and inspires developers.
- Part 3 elaborates on two common mistakes that technology vendors make when planning strategies for winning over outside developers along with suggestions on how to get prepared.
Here in part 4, I’ll discuss the groundwork you as a technology vendor must lay before mounting efforts to win adoption and advocacy from external developers, and share my take on how to best connect with them and win their enthusiastic support for your technology.
Context precedes understanding, affording mental connections to relationships and patterns.
Ask yourself: does the description of your technology readily answer the following questions?
- What’s the environment in which the technology operates?
- What problems, especially critical pain points, does it solve?
- How might other related factors, if any, affect its operation?
- What are the caveats, if any, and how do you head them off?
Given the proper context, new technologies end up manifesting their own progress, thanks to the omnipresence of affiliated forums.
As evidenced by its history, software development forges on, one big wave after another, sustained for a period of time but sooner or later superseded by the next wave. Examples abound, such as the move to mobile computing on the heels of the smartphone debut, the popularity of visual media that fosters the richness of an increasingly pictorial web, and the ubiquity of the social web (Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, and other popular chat apps), which races to meet the ever-growing demand for fast, multiuser communications.
Consequently, the next development trend is your ally and friend. If your technology applies to one or more of that trend’s aspects, you are armed with the key ammunition for initiating conversations with developers whose day-to-day work is focused there. Recruiting those techies as advocates for your technology by zeroing in on their needs then becomes the next logical step.
Furthermore, your technology is slated to gain traction if it solves fundamental problems developers face in contemporary, trending concerns, such as the following:
- Software (and function) as a service (SaaS and FaaS)
- Scalability and performance of cloud apps
- Enhanced capability for edge computing
So pick a theme or two from popular development trends and describe how your technology would do wonders for them. At speaking engagements, conference sessions, and community forums, in which developers discuss technical topics, home in on the problem-solving aspect of your technology instead of evangelizing its merits. Chances are that once your message has sunk in, you’ll have rallied a sizable group of developers who would be happy to try it out and, in case of success, spread the word for you. Advertising by association in this manner pays handsome dividends.
As a rule and for good reason, before adopting new technologies, companies customarily mandate approvals from IT, tech execs, and budget-holding stakeholders. Besides acting as a missionary for your technologies, help your prospective developer advocates with the selling job they must do within their organizations by lending your expertise, skills, and perspectives. A technology touted simply as being “useful” doesn’t cut it; stakeholders legitimately and justifiably worry about integration, security, scalability, performance, effects on other software components, and such.
Bottom line: practice empathy. Place yourself in the shoes of those who have skin in the game, learn what matters to them, and alleviate their concerns and reservations with clear explanations supported by concrete, demonstrable examples. After all, software development is complex with dependencies galore and your technology shouldn’t make it (or be perceived as making it) more complex.
An effective way of winning developer champions is to actively collaborate with them, initially in several ecosystems, each of which with its own unique requirements.
Follow these steps:
Do this background research yourself:
Understand what the requirements entail for each of the organizations to which your prospective champions belong. One-size-fits-all in this context is a myth.
Prioritize the requirements, highlighting the ones that matter the most and to which developers.
Delve deep into the specifics, research thoroughly, and emphasize the salient points.
Experiment at length with your collaborators. Review the results together, pick the ecosystem to work with, and test in detail.
Tip: A surefire way of gaining insight and perspectives is to attend developer events that relate to the target ecosystems. Event speakers and workshop instructors often share their expertise, viewpoints, and experience by contributing articles to technical journals and the like. Reap the wisdom offered by those commentaries and analyses.
Stay flexible. Treat decisions as being nothing more than educated guesses and remind yourself that you’re experimenting. Be prepared to change gears or adopt another ecosystem as circumstances warrant.
Leverage comments. The interactions and feedback from your developer collaborators are invaluable, promising to steer you toward the correct ecosystem to engage in and bring to light your best allies and true champions.
Throughout the process, listen well. In fact, listen a lot more frequently than talk. As contradictory as that behavior might sound with you being on stage as a technology proponent, questions are an effective tool that often elicits input, which forms a key basis for your ecosystem pick. In addition, speak the audience’s lingo, take notes, respond promptly, follow through, and solicit opinions. Assuredly, your collaborators would appreciate and value your responsiveness, vigilance, respect, and support, let alone cherish having you as a sounding board and partner.