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The Link Between DevOps Test Data Management and a Great Developer Experience

By Jason Axelrod posted 10 days ago

Removing test data bottlenecks will empower developers, improve the developer experience, and increase business growth
The Link Between DevOps Test Data Management and a Great Developer Experience
This article was originally published on the Delphix website here April 18, 2024.

In 2020, McKinsey surveyed 440 companies and 100 technology experts to measure how software development affected business growth. In their report, the global consultancy noted that software development could improve a business’s performance by, “empowering developers, creating the right environment for them to innovate, and removing points of friction.” McKinsey found that companies who focused on these capabilities had 60% higher shareholder returns, 4-5 times higher revenue growth, and greater levels of customer satisfaction, brand perception, and talent management than companies who didn’t.

Empowering developers, facilitating ideal innovation environments, and streamlining work processes, as well as addressing developers’ on-the-job challenges, is also key for maintaining a great developer experience (DX), or the ability for developers to easily carry out essential tasks that are required to enact a change. The developer experience is a key component of developers’ job satisfaction – after all, what employee wants to work for a company that limits their ability to do their work well and innovate nimbly? Without a great developer experience, businesses risk employee attrition, expensive talent acquisition/training costs, and a loss in business performance.

One of the most frustrating challenges software developers encounter concerns the slow speeds and frequencies at which they receive test data, which is essential for building, testing, and releasing software updates. But adopting a DevOps test data management (TDM) solution that accelerates test data provisioning will improve developer experience, and, in turn, increase business growth.

Why the Developer Experience Is Essential to Business Success

Enterprise software development is tough work, but it can be very rewarding. Developers must write and manipulate thousands of precise code snippets to ensure that key applications within their larger organizations function optimally. Yet doing this work involves creativity, provides a real sense of accomplishment, and directly helps others.

The reality is, developers love to code. But manual processes often prevent them from doing their job at the speed they need to code to innovate. An IDC survey of 2,500 developers showed the developers spent 84% of their time with manual development processes, while they were able to devote just 16% of their time to writing code. 

Wrestling with manual processes is one of the factors that hurts the developer experience. And the developer experience has a quantifiably significant impact on employee retention— over half (53%) of software developers who are looking for new employment or are open to new opportunities want their employers to prioritize developer experience, per a Stack Overflow survey

At the same time, the pool of developer job candidates remains high. Among the Stack Overflow survey’s respondents, 75% were either looking for a new job or remaining open to new job opportunities. The job market for software developers, quality assurance analysts, and testers is poised to exponentially expand over the next decade. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts that the job growth rate for these professions will be five times higher than the average rate for all occupations between 2021 and 2031.

A thriving job market coupled with a large pool of software development job seekers shows that software developers don’t have to settle for subpar jobs, and they know they don’t. The costs of developer attrition and turnover aren’t cheap, either. An estimate from business analytics provider SplashBI shows that replacing a software engineer can cost up to 91% of the employee’s salary, with productivity loss constituting 10% of their salary. 

In a 2022 article, McKinsey noted that, “[m]uch like employee experience more broadly, great DX [developer experience] makes life easier for developers, which in turn translates into higher performance.” So, in order to avoid costs associated with talent attrition and replacement while increasing business growth, it’s incumbent upon businesses to improve their developer experience.

The Challenges with Automating Data

A notorious example of the manual processes that many enterprise software developers must deal with concerns the slow speeds at which they acquire test data to work with. These slow speeds occur due to bottlenecks of data that result from the clash of automated development processes and the need to ensure test data is secure and compliant with numerous global data privacy regulations. And yet most software development processes have been automated— from storage to compute, and code. Data, meanwhile, has not been automated. What’s the holdup?

The chief reason is that TDM processes weren’t designed to handle the nuances of today’s data. Over the past several years, data has grown more voluminous due to expanding data collection, it has garnered greater risk due to increasingly sophisticated data breaches, and it has attracted greater scrutiny by regulatory bodies, resulting in data privacy compliance issues. The net result of these challenges is that businesses have had to work more meticulously with their data to ensure it is organized, secure, and compliant. 

In the meantime, enterprise software development processes have grown more automated, vastly accelerating their pace. The software development frameworks that manage these processes, such as Agile and DevOps, have also grown more efficient. Yet test data management — the set of software development processes that are critical towards delivering high-quality, reliable systems and applications — has not kept up pace with the rest of software development. The major consequence of this discrepancy is bottlenecks of data that impede the development process, impacting the developer experience, and hurting innovation and the business as a whole.

DevOps TDM to the Rescue

Adopting a highly evolved set of practices known as DevOps TDM can automate data procedures and manual TDM processes, allowing them to match the speed of automated development processes. DevOps TDM updates TDM processes through several core technologies, with the three most prominent being data virtualization, data masking, and connectivity through application programming interfaces (APIs). 

These technologies work in tandem to solve the various issues facing modern-day data processes. Data virtualization shrinks a company’s data footprint and facilitates quick provisioning of test data, which reduces storage costs, improves sustainability efforts, and improves business velocity. Data masking streamlines compliance and security practices by anonymizing test data. And APIs allow one to orchestrate and monitor these automated actions from other software, such as development tools and IT service management tools. 

By automating TDM procedures and quickly ensuring data security and compliance, DevOps TDM eliminates bottlenecks of test data, which prevents massive wait states and frees up developer resources. This allows developers to shift their focus from manual, mundane tasks to higher-level, more pressing tasks, while increasing their productivity. This removes friction points and creates an environment suitable for innovation, empowering developers. These are the three key components of maximizing the developer experience. 

Anne M. Mulcahy, former CEO and chairwoman of Xerox Corporation, once said that, “employees are a company’s greatest asset – they’re your competitive advantage.” By streamlining test data processes with DevOps TDM, businesses can improve their greatest asset and achieve greater business growth. 

The Delphix Data Platform is a comprehensive DevOps TDM solution which leverages data masking, data virtualization, and APIs to ensure automated delivery of lightweight, compliant data wherever it’s needed. Reach out to us to learn how Delphix can benefit your organization.