Developer Personas as a Revenue Growth Tool
Nike, Adidas and Under Armour have digitally opened up their fitness and athletics products. McCormick Foods and Campbells Soup have released flavor profile data. Walgreens digitized their photo printing and prescription filling order services. Philips released programmable lightbulbs. Edmunds transformed from a car classifieds site to a digital sales inventory and vehicle information service. Most recently banks like Capital One and BBVA are encouraging developers to build new products based off banking data. All of these companies are growing because they saw new opportunities in helping third party innovators extend their products by creating new software.
To succeed today, businesses are transforming into platforms on which others can build new software. Competitive, forward-thinking businesses of all kinds — startups, medium-sized companies and enterprise — are all beginning to release their data and services in a programmable form in order to encourage new business partnerships.
Developers are at the center of those partnerships, as they will be the ones who enable a business to extend its reach, create new products using the company’s assets and services, and open up new revenue-sharing opportunities.
John Musser, VP of Tech at Basho (one of the world’s largest application database providers), serial entrepreneur and founder of ProgrammableWeb, says one of the most misunderstood terms in business today is ‘developer’.
“There is such a gross generalization as to what a developer actually means,” he says. Musser stresses that for any effective business model, knowing your customer segments is vital. “Without thinking about which type of developer, where they go for information, what they do, the companies they work with, the languages they use, their skill-sets, their pain points… many a business model has floundered or failed because of inadequate developer segmentation. You are not going to go after any market without first defining some type of segmentation.”
Developers are a key business customer and partner segment, as they are the external business partners who can speed up an enterprise’s digital offerings — for example, by creating mobile and wearable apps — as well as help connect an enterprise to fast rising stars like the current generation of tech platforms including Uber and Slack, and support business units to operate more efficiently by connecting processes and data internally.
Musser says when a company is thinking about how to reach different developer audiences and engage with them as business partners and growth generators, it is also worth recognizing that internal developers working behind the firewall are a segment that can be approached and engaged. These developers have their own motivations and can play a major part in encouraging consistent tech design internally. They are also responsible for building automated operational processes that create time and cost efficiencies.
Preparing developer personas is a methodology that aims to document the characteristics of key developer segments that are expected to be using a business’ APIs, data, or microservices to build applications or to integrate tech solutions. VisionMobile regularly conducts global surveys — now having reached over 20,000 developers — to build and validate the world’s most comprehensive developer segmentation model across mobile, cloud, desktop and IoT platforms. This data is used to produce detailed reports, such as the recent Cloud Developer Segmentation, that focus on segments working within a specific sphere, and These State of the Developer Nation Reports are global deep-dive resources that can be used by business to segment and understand developer motivations and characteristics. A business can then craft more customized segments for each category based on their own use cases that match their specific business’ growth plans. “Segmentation used to be about which technology the developer uses, or what platform they were targeting, but now we’re more concerned with what they are trying to achieve – what does the developer get out of it?” as VisionMobile’s senior analyst Bill Ray puts it.
VisionMobile’s developer segmentation model helps businesses divide their developer customers/partners into groupings not based on their skill-set — such as which platform they develop on — but on their motivations and goals as a way to organize developers into key audience groupings.
This can help frame how those developers are incentivized and what resources they are provided with. While there is a return on investment for development engagement activities, a business can only pursue so many market segments at any given time. Developer segmentation helps a business identify how to prioritize developer engagement resources to create a constant wave of S-curves. Depending on the business/tech cycle stage, this may first involve supporting developer Explorers and Scouts who are looking at the horizon and will be creating the next generation of products a business can market. Then, new revenue opportunities are created by harnessing Guns for Hire and Hunter devs who are building third party apps. A third wave of dev engagement then focuses on Enterprise IT and Product extenders who will use software to improve efficiency or engage customers more effectively.
Kristen Womack is a consultant who works on digital strategies, and has helped several businesses document their developer personas. She gave a talk about approaches to documenting developer personas at the API Strategy and Practice conference last year.
“I gravitate more to understanding the sentiment and the feeling the developer is having,” says Womack. “For example, for a lot of developers what really wows them is when something works smoothly and is a little bit clever. I try to focus on the feeling because the skills are irrelevant as more developers move between platforms,” she says. By focusing on the motivations that drive a developer, Womack says, a business has a much higher success rate of engaging effectively.
Jérôme Louvel, CEO of Restlet, one of the world’s largest open source IDE platforms, says creating developer personas is a user research activity that must be carried out “like for any other agile IT project”. He suggests creating developer personas and then generating user stories around how they engage with the various resources the business provides to help them achieve their goals. Understanding their motivations is crucial for documenting user stories.
But beyond that initial interaction, Louvel says that developer personas can be used to keep a developer community engaged with the business. “We see an increasing awareness of the importance of the overall developer experience, which encompasses not only initial application development, but also the operations and engagement activities on an IT project, as a whole,” says Louvel.
“The key here is to personify, categorize and prioritize correctly the developers that will use your APIs, your app backend, your microservice or your integration process so that it becomes more natural to think about the experience that those developers — depending on their goals and skills — will have at various level of interaction with your solution.”
Womack says that for developer personas to drive revenue and build out a successful ecosystem, the personas must be used as regularly referenced business tools.
“I see most people create them and they just sit there,” Womack warns. “What I recommend is an ‘information radiators’ approach: if you put up the information you want people to absorb, there is more likelihood they will be referred to and used regularly.” Womack says she has seen developer personas posted on lab walls, given a specific spot in standup meetings, and even had slackbots created so that a dev persona can chime in on a feature channel discussion, for example. “It is a bit like that quote about Jeff Bezos always having a chair set aside in meetings to represent the customer, it is about making room and space for the developer persona.”
Womack also recommends assigning a team member to maintain the persona, to perhaps ask at standup meetings on a regular basis, “Is there anything we learnt about Amy, one of our developer personas, yesterday?”
Louvel is heartened by how the current interest in developer personas he is seeing in the enterprise: “I see a growing trend that puts the developer persona at the center of the API creation process, especially for private APIs,” Louvel says.
“The developer who will consume a business’ API needs to have tighter and tighter control over the defined API. If the developer is involved too late in the creation process, then they won’t be able to build the proper solution such as a mobile or web app UI.”
Increasingly, all businesses — whether they be Nike, McCormick Foods, Walgreens, Philips, or Capital One — across all sectors are becoming tech businesses. As part of this shift, businesses are opening up their data and services as components that can be integrated into applications and processes by third party partners. In this economy, developers become crucial to enabling revenue growth and can help extend market reach by helping a business create new digital products, or integrate into other digital platforms. Business models and business plans must better target developer segments in order to leverage new growth. Developer personas are a key tool to successfully build these new partner relationships.
The Cloud Developer Segmentation Report by VisionMobile, is based on the 10th edition of the Developer Economics survey that reached over 21,000 respondents from 150 countries and provides detailed data on thousands of cloud developers. The report looks in detail at the cloud developer segments, seeing how motivations map to tools and business models, providing an insight into what applications they are creating and how they are creating them. Consequently it divides developers into eight segments, based on what they want to achieve rather than the tools they use to achieve it.