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Why modular tech stacks are a productivity game changer

22 May 2023

Slack’s director of software engineering, V Brennan, explains how a simple automation process can create more agile, streamlined workforces.

While no two development teams are the same, all of them share a common goal: shipping quality code and solutions faster. At the same time, developers are increasingly central to the productivity of businesses as a whole. They’re actively tasked with improving not just their own efficiency but finding ways to use technology to boost overall business performance.

Yet, in an era of business disruption and economic turbulence – not to mention continuing high demand for developer talent – achieving that goal often means having to do the seemingly impossible: doing more with less.

So, where can developers save time and improve productivity across the organisation? The key can be found in streamlining everyday processes with modular tech stacks and improving automation across the business.

A building-block approach

Writing new code is a time-consuming process for development teams. In fact, almost half of a developer’s time (43pc) is spent coding apps, with another almost 27pc spent on app design.

When all that code is being written from scratch, it can slow down the pace of innovation, with great ideas quickly getting bogged down in deployment. However, with a building-block approach, developers can accelerate that shift from the spark of inspiration to real-world use cases and complete more deployments in less time.

At the base of the building-block approach is a platform that connects an organisation’s people, tools, customers and partners. This acts as the foundation that all of the organisation’s work, whether that’s IT development, sales pushes or marketing campaigns, is built on.

Developers can then use modular, reusable functions to construct and scale applications on top of this foundation in any way they see fit. To maximise efficiency, the coding blocks they use can be ready made or repurposed from previous deployments. This reduces repetitive development or maintenance time, giving developers more time to focus on building solutions and improving business productivity.

For example, a development team may have automated a sales workflow: after a signature is received in a tool like DocuSign, the sales team is notified and a product order is automatically created in their CRM software.

With those building blocks in place, developers can reuse this to automate a separate workflow, for example for their marketing team’s ad campaigns, without needing to start from square one.

Ensuring the underlying workplace platform integrates closely with business-critical apps is essential for this custom approach to work, as shown by Vodafone, where integrations are a key component of developer life.

Custom search integrations enable the team to pull up relevant information in seconds, while integrations with other tools like PagerDuty delivers rapid alerts on incidents.

By integrating these other tools into their work platform and customising how they work, developers have reduced incident resolution times from 20 minutes to under five minutes, and production cycles from around three months to 30 minutes.

Automation for everyone

To integrate tools and redeploy code more easily and efficiently, it is important to empower everyday users to build their own automations.

This doesn’t mean that every employee must start studying Python; instead, no-code solutions can enable anyone, no matter their tech prowess, to easily automate repeated tasks and processes. At the same time, these modular no-code solutions free up developers to focus on more urgent initiatives that require their specialist skills.

No-code solutions use drag-and-drop interfaces to make customising and modifying workflows as simple as sharing a file or copy and pasting text. Putting these tools in the hands of various teams can enable them to start standardising how they collect requests, onboard new teammates and more.

It enables everyone to create workflows that are adapted to their unique requirements, meaning they can connect and engage with teammates and tools in ways that work for them. What’s more, it has a direct impact on productivity: those who use work automations estimate they save an average of 3.6 hours each week, adding up to more than 20 working days over the course of a year.

Revolut is just one business that has been taking advantage of no-code automations to expand custom workflows to those outside the tech team. Their salespeople have been leading the way, embracing no-code solutions to build custom workflows for raising questions on products, sales processes, sales skills and more. This data is then fed into their sales enablement process, allowing them to continuously improve their sales approach based on trending queries and answers. With just a few custom steps, the sales process was improved and the whole organisation benefits, underscoring the rapid benefits automation tools can deliver.

Building better workplaces

Developers play a key role in making work simpler, more pleasant and more productive, not just for IT teams, but for the entire business. They are no longer a siloed back-office function but at the centre of how teams get work done. Yet, to help developers and businesses drive productivity, new modes of building and automating code are needed.

That starts with an extensible platform for work that acts as the foundation for a modular approach to specialist development, and which also enables non-tech teams to customise their own workflows. With that bedrock in place, and the building blocks in their hands, developers and non-tech teams can create the custom applications and automations they need to become more productive, agile and impactful for the business.

By V Brennan

V Brennan is senior director of software engineering at Slack. She’s an experienced tech leader, growing and scaling Slack engineering teams in EMEA and the US, with previous experience at Spotify and Bank of New Zealand.

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