How Shifting Information Left Can Empower Developers and Accelerate Innovation

  • Beatrice Taylor
  • May 30, 2024
  • 60
How Shifting Information Left Can Empower Developers and Accelerate Innovation

Development teams are increasingly seen as the engine room of the modern digital enterprise, tasked with building the new services and capabilities that the business needs to thrive. However, with resources stretched to their limit, organizations must find a way to empower their developers to work more productively, so they can deliver newer, better digital capabilities faster and more reliably. If they fail to do so, it will be more difficult to keep pace with market demands, and many will see their competitors gain the advantage.

The Essence of Shifting Left

In response, organizations are increasingly adopting a shift left approach, to ensure that new code is tested earlier in the software development lifecycle (SDLC). This reduces the risk that code could contain errors or vulnerabilities that lead to delayed innovation, as applications or features are rolled back to be reworked by developers. But shift left should not be about moving extra work “left” in the SDLC, or demanding developers assume extra responsibilities. It should be about empowering developers to work smarter, by shifting all relevant information left. Developers should have all the insight they need, when they require it, to make better decisions.

Why Shift Left?

Software-driven screen

Software-driven innovation is helping organizations to redefine customer experience and supercharge back-office efficiencies. Thanks to microservices, Kubernetes, and multi-cloud architectures, development and engineering teams are now able to respond quickly to changing business requirements. That speed is vital to gaining and retaining customers and setting the enterprise on a path to sustainable growth.

However, there are also challenges to overcome. Economic uncertainty, persistent inflation, and high interest rates continue to stalk the Western world. Although Gartner is predicting annual growth in total IT spending during 2024 at 6.8 percent, it cautions that the environment will remain constrained. Budgets will be closely scrutinized, therefore, with business leaders keen to find new ways to deliver innovation more efficiently. That means optimizing developer workflows without driving up risk.

In fact, this is an area ripe for transformation. Analysis reveals that UK businesses could unwittingly be wasting over £10.4 billion each year by forcing developers to continue shouldering the burden of inefficient, manual tasks. These tasks -- which include unnecessary scripting, manual deployments, inefficient testing processes, and responding to security issues -- should be automated. They should not be so onerous that developers in some cases only have an hour free each day to actually spend on coding.

Context switching is a particular burden, where developers are frequently forced by the siloed and manual nature of their work to jump between different coding tasks. This can end up draining time, motivation and focus, leading to burnout or pushing talented developers to find employment elsewhere.

Speed Without Risk

art Automation

Automation is helping organizations to overcome some of these challenges, by accelerating and streamlining Continuous Integration and Continuous Delivery (CI/CD) processes. But being able to automate at scale and innovate at speed is not enough. Development teams must be able to do so without increasing business or cyber risk. If they go too fast without the right guardrails in place, it can end up adding cost and time. Rollbacks are bad enough, but security holes that make it into production are even worse.

Organizations therefore need to empower developers to drive innovation faster without losing control. Shift left is a big part of the solution, and is a concept well understood by most in the industry. However, it’s important to remember the primary goal should be to give developers access to the insights they need to build better software faster -- not overwhelm them with work earlier on in the SDLC.

This can be challenging given the complexity of multi-cloud, microservices and Kubernetes-based development environments. There are many moving parts, and developers must master and manage the configuration of multiple tools and infrastructure components, which adds to the administrative burden, and makes onboarding new talent complex and time-consuming.

Developer-Friendly Experience

Developer-Friendly Experience laptop

Organizations are increasingly turning to Internal Developer Portal (IDP) approaches to overcome these challenges and enable successful shift-left adoption. An IDP reduces complexity and manual toil by bringing together different pipelines into a single, centralized interface, enabling developers to track software providence and understand the impact of changes in real time. This single pane of glass provides self-service access to all the tools and functionality they need to deploy code and manage relevant services and components.

The IDP does the heavy lifting with development infrastructure, so talent can do what it does best: turning ideas from concept to reality. By empowering developers to optimize code early in the SDLC, they can accelerate the pipeline with reduced risk of rollbacks or firefighting in production. That means less chance of productivity-draining context switching. It ensures more time spent building innovative new features and less on staging environments, deployment processes, and scripts to get code to production. When matched by platforms that feature generative AI and support automated pipelines, IDPs can provide even more value, driving developer productivity and business agility.

Fintech firm Intelliflo has adopted exactly these capabilities to empower its developers with knowledge and insight at all stages of the SDLC. By bringing key observability data into one place, its developers are able to make smarter, faster decisions, safe in the knowledge that their code meets stringent performance and security targets. In short, shifting left has accelerated the velocity and enhanced the quality of Intelliflo’s code significantly.

Better Business Outcomes

Innovation plays a crucial role in fostering growth, enhancing adaptability, and securing a competitive edge. It's clear why numerous organizations emphasize its importance in the current challenging business climate. However, to truly benefit their customers and shareholders, they must first examine the core of their innovation processes.

A shift-left approach supported by an IDP offers a fantastic opportunity to optimize the productivity of developers while managing risk down to acceptable levels. This means developers have everything they need to make the right decisions and deliver the goods -- time and again. Ultimately, that equates to faster innovation, less risk, and happier teams.

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