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Three Things Companies Must Do to Attract Developers

Reflections on the growth of the platform economy
MichaelRasalan
Sep 23, 2016

Nobody can get too far without encountering the word “platform” these days. This is particularly so for anybody involved in technology, and it is increasingly so for other kinds of businesses. For people in the tech industry, participation in the platform economy has become a key component of many business plans.

Companies that have not traditionally been associated with technology are exploring the creation of their own platforms, with reasons for participation ranging from offering additional channels for their services, to finding ways to extend brand recognition by taking advantage of new forms of media.

Populating the platform

Whether businesses are already in tech or are just exploring the digital side, one of the challenges is to find and reach developers who can help populate their platforms and drive their ecosystems. Having been in developer research for over 15 years now, Evans Data has witnessed the transformation of the developer population over time, from one that could be considered a niche occupation and the domain of computer scientists to a segment that is an essential driver of national economies.

Developers are a rapidly growing population; they can be very influential in decisions to choose and adopt new technologies. Evans Data reports that at present there are over 21 million developers worldwide. This population is expected to surpass 25 million in 2021.

The growth of the platform economy is tied to the confluence of innovation in a number of new technologies, among them big data and advanced data analytics, mobile platforms, and the cloud. Many of these enable the Internet of Things, which itself experienced 34% growth in the past year—30% of developers are today working on an IoT-related project, most commonly in wearables and industrial devices. These in turn drive other development work, such as development of artificial intelligence and machine learning.

Grabbing developers’ attention

With respect to populating their platforms, companies need to offer their services by maintaining APIs that are functional and well-supported for developers to pay attention. More often than not, developers are already working with organizations that publish APIs. Fifty-six percent are currently doing so, whether they’re working on public APIs or on APIs for internal use. In fact, 46% of these developers who publish APIs are working on public APIs. Clearly, APIs are seen by developers as valuable components for platforms.

Companies hoping to attract developers onto their platforms must heed three key pieces of advice.

First, they must provide a developer program to support their APIs. Two-thirds of developers only access APIs that are supported by a developer program. Furthermore, the lack of a program is seen as a big drag on developer efficiency and productivity. So it’s of utmost importance that companies provide the necessary infrastructure to make consumption of their APIs easier.

Second, within these programs companies must provide a robust set of technical information and technical support, as these are two of the most compelling reasons for developers to join developer programs.

Third, making a developer feel like a partner involves extending different channels of communication with them. This may include providing forums for a community to participate in, as well as making specialists and engineers easily accessible to developers. Almost 90% of developers feel that access to engineers make them feel like they are partners.

Michael Rasalan is director of research at Evans Data Corp., the industry leader for market research, market intelligence, and strategic planning in the IT and software development industry. He'll be joining us at the San Francisco stop of the Adapt or Die World Tour on Sept. 27.

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