How does Developer Morale Affect My Software Supply Chain?

January 03, 2023 By Luke Mcbride

4 minute read time

Most leaders know that happier employees can mean improved retention, which means less money chasing, hiring, and training new talent. As such, most companies see a clear connection between improved employee morale and business outcomes.

However, as more and more organizations are not just producing software but relying on software tools for growth, developer performance has a major influence on your company. What can we say about the morale of software developers?

Now in our 8th year, Sonatype’s annual reports look at the software supply chain, including developer involvement. In this pursuit, we considered the influences and outcomes of developer job satisfaction. Today we look back on some of the insights and conclusions from our research. 

Better development maturity can mean happy devs

Our most recent report found that developers prefer working inside a more mature development environment. This is defined by multiple features, including quality governance, open source component selection, giving back to the community, and more. Groups that had more of these features also carried higher job satisfaction.

Developers in this space reported a 2.7x increase in job satisfaction and 2x more likely to recommend their organization to their peers (source).

While it’s possible that already contented developers may have pushed software maturity in a better direction, it’s clear that management has ways to improve both overall performance and morale.

Read the full report.

Bar graph detailing the status of job satisfaction versus issues like application inventory, project consumption, giving back, policy control, and more.

The impact of dependency hell

Dependency management is also an important part of developer morale. Our 2021 report addressed this as a key issue in open source development practices. Even though most developers fully recognize the importance of keeping software components up to date, the task is dull and unwelcome. The frustration is so common, it’s often referred to as “dependency hell.”

As a result, organizations that can manage this often painful process with tooling are likely to see better job satisfaction.

2020 developer survey results

Sonatype performed two surveys in 2020: one DevSecOps community and another for the State of the Software Supply Chain report.

DevSecOps

A community survey suggested that happy developers were associated with more mature development practices. Beyond the obvious suggestions of hiring, retention, and productivity, these teams had some dramatic differences: 5.6x less likely to have friction with other roles in their organization and 3.6x less likely to neglect security. They also were more likely to have a software bill of materials, maintain code quality, and follow governance policies. 

A more detailed overview of the survey is available (“Happy Developers Produce More Secure Software, Better Business Outcomes”) or you can read the full report.

State of the Software Supply Chain

Our report also surveyed developers, this time from a wide variety of industry verticals and sizes. We saw that high-performing teams not only have better security and productivity but also improved job satisfaction. This included open source support and risk management, test suite usage, application deployments, and agile/DevOps practices.

Improving the “culture, development practices, policy enforcement, automation, and integrations” of teams had an impact on both performance and morale.

More information on our analysis of high-performing teams is available in our 2020 report (chapter 4).

The developer mood ring 

Organizations with a lackluster quarter often miss an opportunity to increase their budget and extra personnel. So it’s worth asking if your current staff is engaged. Economic shifts rarely affect developers, making it easy for developers to move on if unhappy.

Slowdowns in development caused by exits, poor morale, and low development maturity can put your company at risk for vulnerabilities or delay important customer features.

How to get started

Wherever you are in your journey toward improving developer performance and disposition, there are steps you can take today.

To help, we've compiled a list of additional resources below for further research and ideas on improving developer morale.

You can also take our Software Supply Chain Maturity Assessment to see which areas may be missing or need improvement within your development organization.

Related

Tags: survey, devsecops, State of the Software Supply Chain, Post developers/devops

Written by Luke Mcbride

Luke is a writer at Sonatype covering everything from open source licenses and liability to DevSecOps trends and container security.