Measuring DevRel impact: beyond the metrics
Proving business value remains a long-standing challenge for DevRel teams and leaders. I've heard anecdotes of DevRel professionals spending over half their working hours justifying their roles. That's clearly not great. This lack of trust can become a self-fulfilling prophecy that undermines performance.
DevRel as a force multiplier
Many DevRel professionals have explored how to measure DevRel impact. It all boils down to tying DevRel activities to established metrics within the organization. The complexity arises from DevRel's role as a supporting function that amplifies the efforts of other departments.
Time horizon mismatch
DevRel works on a different time horizon compared to sales and marketing. While the sales team focuses on closing immediate deals and marketing seeks current leads, DevRel lays the groundwork for future leads and sustained growth. This difference in focus can lead to organizational friction.
The long-term impact of DevRel
Tim Berglund, VP of DevRel at StarTree, wrote a great Twitter thread outlining the vital part DevRel plays in helping developer products succeed:
Developers in general are averse to anything that looks like marketing. If we think a salesperson will call as a result of some interaction, we'll likely go the other way. We want useful information, not a pitch. We run ad blockers.
Today it's farfetched to think an executive might make a significant technology adoption decision without buy-in from at least a layer of senior architects, who in turn, in all but the most dysfunctional cases, have buy-in from developers on the line.
Those developers are bought in because they're already using the thing the company is considering buying. They've been playing with, or even seriously building on, an open-source or cloud free-tier version of the technology for months or years.
They've validated some kind of "ROI" before the "I"—at least the directly monetary part of it. This is how software gets bought now: we get to try it first. This is good!
A different perspective on DevRel value
Rather than solely focusing on tracing a direct line from DevRel activities to sales, consider how many deals have been closed without developer buy-in. The answer is likely very few. DevRel, product, sales, and marketing are all part of the same ecosystem that enables long-term business success.
Aligning DevRel with business goals
For DevRel to be valued, it needs to contribute to the business objectives. This involves clear communication and alignment with product, marketing, and sales teams.
Value isn't always strictly quantifiable; it can be as qualitative as deepening a customer relationship through a lunch-and-learn session or providing invaluable product feedback. What's important is that others genuinely get value out of your work.
Matt Asay, VP of DevRel at MongoDB, hits the nail on the head in his recent Twitter thread:
If you're in DevRel and wondering how to measure your value, the first step is to understand your company's objectives. Your job is to directly contribute to them in the most scalable and effective ways possible, working with Product, Sales, Marketing, etc.
If those teams don't think you're indispensable to their success, then there's a disconnect you need to fix. I find DevRel teams often operate in isolation of the business, and then wonder why their busyness isn't appreciated.