Everyone say startup is not about the individual, but the team. I regard myself as very lucky to be on the Krunch boat with my Co-founder Akhil and an amazing team, hopefully it would turn into a ship one day.
Krunch got so much help from the Developer Relations community to kick start the journey, we appreciate the precious time you spent talking to us about your needs and generously sharing your insights. In return, I wanted to share with you all some key insights we identified when we were interviewing DevRel from across the world; North America, Europe and Asia. In particular we wanted to use a different perspective to see certain major issues currently faced by DevRel and inspire some new solutions. Without further ado, I will move on…
DevRel have a lot on their plates. A lot of them are involved in many side projects from other departments, like marketing, product, engineering and customer support. In addition, they have conferences to go to, giving talks, hosting meetups or writing sample codes etc. Quite a number of DevRel we did interview with were done when they were at airports waiting for the next flight.
All of these multi-tasking and traveling, combined with the frustrations that stems from under appreciation by management/other departments of the value of the work they do, gives rise to burnout.
Struggle Between Community & Company
Some of the DevRel we have spoken to found it difficult to do things that satisfy both the community and the company’s interest. Quoting from the book “The Business Value of Developer Relations” written by Mary Thengvall, “To the company, I represent the community, to the community I represent the company.” To execute this successfully it requires a clear alignment of the objectives of the DevRel’s community work and business objectives.
As mentioned before, one cause of burnout for DevRel has been lack of acknowledgement from management or other departments of the value of their work. When you work so passionately and hard in helping your developer community, and still others don’t recognize the true value of what you do, it can be very demoralizing. A lot of DevRel feel that they don’t get the recognition they deserve. Some reasons provided include lack of understanding of what they do from others, and lack of meaningful metrics that show business value to management.
Lack Of Meaningful Metrics
There are plenty of engagement metrics that DevRel can track, however, showing these engagement metrics is not sufficient as the transmission mechanism between some of these engagement metrics and the ultimate business value is not immediately obvious.
For instance, having more community members re-sharing a blog post written by a DevRel about a technology is an indication of members approval and have a positive impact on the company’s brand and product. This can contribute to retention and therefore lower churn rate. However, the transmission mechanism between more people sharing and churn rate is not immediately obvious and requires more work to show this.
A related point to the above is that DevRel find it difficult to justify to management which activity is more effective, and therefore get the necessary budget. Sometimes DevRel are pushed to do certain things by management simply because management feel it is the right thing to do, even though this is disagreed by the DevRel. There are insufficient meaningful data for DevRel to justify taking a certain course of actions, support their claim and get budget.
One of the major culprits of the above mentioned problems faced by DevRel is that so far it has been difficult for them to measure and communicate the business value of their activities. Before entering the tech world, I used to work in the investment industry that applied a lot of data science and statistical techniques to explore relationships between variables. And it is very interesting to see this problem faced by DevRel in the context of my previous field. This problem of measuring something that are more intangible in benefits have been tackled extensively before in the investment space.
ESG investing is the consideration of environmental, social and governance factors (ESG) in the investment decision making process. The principle behind is that those companies who invest and have strong ESG will have better financial performance, and therefore become an attractive investment. However, the benefits of investing in these three factors are often intangible, difficult to measure quantitatively and takes a long time for the financial effects to become apparent. This is similar to the benefits from DevRel’s activities; that it takes time for the financial benefits of relationship building with developer community to be seen, that the benefits of a lot of DevRel’s works are intangible and difficult to measure quantitatively.
Yet ESG investing has been growing rapidly and billions of dollars are flowing into investment funds that focuses on ESG investing. To give some figures, ESG investing has grown to more than USD 30 trillion in 2018, growing by 34% since 2016.
How Data Science Facilitated Success Of ESG Investing?
Through conducting statistical experiments, it was found there was a strong positive correlation between a robust ESG practices from companies and their financial performance. One of the most famous was a study from Paul Gompers of the Harvard Business school. Another one was a study by Alex Edmans of the University of Pennsylvania who found that companies listed on Fortune’s 100 Best Companies to Work For (i.e. have satisfied employees) outperform the average company in terms of stock returns.
All of these studies looked at the relationships between ESG factors and company financial performance using various statistical experiments and data science techniques. Despite ESG investing being a relatively young field with small datasets compared to other traditional forms of investing, these statistical experiments were still possible with meaningful conclusions drawn that persuaded investors to pour in trillions of dollars into the field.
DevRel And ESG
Developer Relations, like ESG investing, is a young field, and naturally data is an issue. However, this didn’t stop advocates of ESG investing to perform statistical experiments and analysis to provide meaningful insights and conclusions.
Similarly for DevRel, one can also consider doing statistical experiments to explore relationships between different factors. For instance, the relationship between awareness level of a product a DevRel is advocating and customer base. It may seem very obvious these two factors should be positively correlated. However, as Seth Godin has said, “Reach is overrated”. Simply broadcasting your message to billions of people and making them aware does not mean that you have more customers, there are more factors at play within this relationship, which statistical experiments can shed more lights on and help focus DevRel’s effort.
What Can We Learn?
DevRel can consider exploring relationships at a more granular level, for instance between writing a blog post that explains how to use a particular API and the number of questions from the community over time related to that particular API. And in turn one can then explore how changes in number of questions among community have an impact on customer satisfactions and therefore company performance. DevRel can use statistical experiments to quantify on average the impact differential between for example a 30 people meetup group vs a 50 people meetup group on awareness level, and therefore determine the additional values gained from investing resources into driving extra people to a meetup group in future when the number has reached 30 already.
With statistical analysis like this, DevRel can start making a more defensible, scientific case to management that statistically doing certain DevRel activities will lead to an improvement in company performance for instance. More importantly, it will allow DevRel to make data driven decisions on which strategy will be more effective, where they should focus their limited time and budgets on. Taking this statistical approach, DevRel can also accumulate more data, and build on top of each studies, and systematically see how the relationships between different factors evolve, and therefore adjust strategies accordingly.
Let Me End Here
I wanted to say that having the data helps, but those anecdotes and the human touches still play a huge part too in showing to the world the value of DevRel. Would love to hear your thoughts! Take care.