Break Down Barriers to Open Source Success with the Ultimate DX Support Team

Arundeep Nagaraj and Anil Maktala
Published 10/19/2023
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In an effort to gain an edge in today’s rapidly evolving, open source software (OSS) landscape, more companies are focusing on developer experience (DX). DX refers to the ease or difficulty a developer encounters when interacting with the software or product. DX, or DevEx, traditionally signifies the internal optimization of software tools and processes for developers. But as companies build OSS and projects, DX also spans external developers consuming these open source product libraries, software development kits (SDK), and application programming interfaces (API). DX support teams have become increasingly popular with companies as they seek to optimize organizational time, resources, and budgets and improve internal software engineering productivity by relieving development teams of customer engagement responsibilities. DX engineers break down customer experience barriers, thus amplifying software popularity, increasing community feedback, and fostering exciting innovations.

With these benefits in mind, it is little wonder that quality DX is becoming an integral component of the OSS model. Previously, creators and maintainers of open source projects could get away with poor documentation and nonexistent customer support. That doesn’t work anymore. In today’s highly competitive landscape, companies need outstanding DX engineers to create an environment where developers and stakeholders work together to drive advances that take OSS to new levels of usability, performance, and adoption.

Improving developer experience to drive innovation

Over the last three decades, the world has become more connected and digital with exponential advances in technology. In fact, computer speed and power have doubled approximately every one and a half to two years since the 1960s, and now more than 90 percent of companies on GitHub use OSS. GitHub is a code hosting platform that developers use for version control and collaboration. In this environment, companies that focus on DX can provide consumers of the product with the agility to build faster, and have seamless adoption of libraries and API into their source code. Instead of dealing with the frustrations of bottlenecks and red tape, external developers can focus their attention and energy on what they do best: writing code.

DX in open source is even more critical as companies invest in open source products. A well-maintained project with optimal DX will help in adoption and retention of developers consuming the software. In a recent survey by Stack Overflow, developers rated open source as the leading proven technology today. That’s why there are more than 94 million developers on GitHub and there were over 413 million open source contributions in 2022, according to Solutions Hub. Gitnus Blog reports that over 70 percent of companies now use OSS, and 50 percent of developers contribute to open source projects.

In an open source environment, a talented, experienced DX support team can unlock numerous benefits—such as increased engagement, shortened response, and improved customer issue resolution times, and enhanced documentation—that dramatically improve the developer experience and lead to the production of better software at a much faster pace. Also, with a DX support team, companies gain insights from external developers and customers they would otherwise have to add as an engineering overhead. This additional insight leads to more robust solutions that can be fine-tuned to meet particular user needs.

How to build a winning DX support team

The biggest challenge with building an effective DX support team is finding team members with the right blend of skills. Too often, companies fill their teams with employees who either have engineering and software development skills or customer support skills blended with general technical acumen. In reality, the best DX support personnel are talented in both areas. Unfortunately, this particular combination of skills can be challenging to find. It is worth taking the extra time and effort to assess candidates for these skills during the interview process because having a DX support team that is strong in both technical support and customer support can unlock the door to greater growth and innovation. Companies need the right blend of empathy and a software engineering mindset that can solve technical challenges for developers using the product and platform.

For example, in a front-end open source library or SDK project, the ideal DX support team members would have high-tech skills in popular front-end frameworks, such as familiarity with React, Astro, Next.js, and JavaScript, and back up those skills with empathy and a customer-focused attitude. Companies should look for candidates who excel in technical writing, developer tool selection, workflow definition, and ability to grasp newer programming languages and frameworks, as well as an ability to educate engineers and address usability issues with customers. For these reasons, it is important for DX support team members to put themselves in customers’ shoes to understand customers’ frustrations and then take steps to alleviate them, including automating processes to clearly categorize issues, reproducing product behavior experienced by customers, introducing a new tool, or taking other action.

DX puts companies on the fast track to success

The open source development process is typically littered with roadblocks. A talented DX support team eliminates those barriers and creates a wide-open racetrack for developers to create the best possible software and apps. The team does this by automating as much of the development process as possible, making documentation easy to access and contribute to, and building interactive communities, such as in Discord, to gain additional insights to spur more innovation. It can also offer customers incentives to encourage interaction and take additional steps to build greater customer trust.

The result is a competitive advantage that can propel companies to new heights. It doesn’t matter what size DX support team a company creates (teams can range in size from just one person to teams of five, seven, ten, or more members). The key is to put DX at the forefront of the development process because a convenient developer experience carries through to end users and results in more popular, better-reviewed, and higher-used software. Organizations with effective DX support teams benefit from a holistic view of their software, greater product usability, smoother and more streamlined end-to-end workflow, alleviated bandwidth for engineering, and much more. That’s why combining open source with DX makes sense. While open source allows companies to iterate and move more quickly, an effective DX support team gives the organization the flexibility and agility to take advantage of the benefits offered by open source.

About the Author

Arundeep Magaraj

Arundeep Nagaraj has an extensive background in developer experience that includes working with global teams, customers, and developers. He has a proven track record of success in leading cross-functional teams and managing complex projects. He is skilled at building strong relationships with stakeholders and teams and fostering a culture of effective collaboration and continuous improvement. Connect with Arundeep on LinkedIn and Twitter.

Anil MaktalaAnil Maktala is a seasoned IT expert with over 18 years of experience in software development. His career covers a wide array of industry sectors, including healthcare, publishing, and insurance. Anil’s impact extends to mentoring and guiding numerous engineers, fostering their professional growth and accomplishments. He holds a Bachelor of Technology degree from Jawaharlal Nehru Technological University, India. Connect with Anil on LinkedIn.

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of their employers.


Disclaimer: The author is completely responsible for the content of this article. The opinions expressed are their own and do not represent IEEE’s position nor that of the Computer Society nor its Leadership.