DevRel Leader Spotlight - Dan Moore, FusionAuth
May 13, 2022
Creating a Better Developer Experience
A concentrated focus on developer experience with a cross-functional approach to DevRel helps companies grow. In this podcast, Peritus CEO, Robin Purohit discusses the importance of developer experience, how to measure success for a complex function that touches multiple departments, and what the future holds for a rapidly evolving discipline with Dan Moore, Head of Developer Relations for FusionAuth.
Dan Moore has a varied background covering a range of domains in marketing, education, and coding. That special convergence of experience drew him to DevRel in 2019, rising to Head of DevRel with FusionAuth in 2020. While FusionAuth is a relatively small company in the space, Moore is uniquely positioned to work with engineering, marketing, customer support, and sales, all while reporting to the CEO directly. His goals are to ensure that current customers and users are successful and educate all developers about the intricacies of authorization and authentication.
That ability to wear multiple hats when approaching a complex field attracted Moore to DevRel and FusionAuth. With a background in education and communications, he has written papers and conveyed key information across organizational silos for years. DevRel is the natural next fit for him with a Dev-first mindset that focuses on strong documentation, strong APIs, and a go-to-market strategy built around making developers love the product.
Moore notes that the broad role of DevRel makes it unique in many aspects. In most smaller companies, the position reports directly to the CEO, but as companies grow, the question depends on what they want to get out of the function. Developer Experience and SDK development may put DevRel under product engineering. If the role is more focused on advocacy, marketing is often a better fit. Support plays an important role in DevRel as well, especially in the area of community development and management.
The Importance of Developer Experience
Moore identifies the analog between developer experience and user experience. For developers, there is often a feel to individual APIs. There are unique attributes, general aesthetic, and usability considerations that impact the way developers interact with a given platform. Developers can tell when something is cobbled together out of two or three products and then stuffed into a package. When considering developer experience, there’s a need for elegance and accessibility in the complexity of the system. Otherwise, there’s sand in the gears. It doesn’t mean the engine can’t turn, but it will turn slower and be a lot bumpier with all that sand in the way.
Moore notes that developer experience is about more than just onboarding. It’s crucial, but so too are retention, utilization rate, upgrade paths, and more. There are dozens of factors that influence DX, but at the end of the day, how smooth is a tool to use, and how enjoyable is the experience for that developer? It can have an outsized impact on their engagement level.
Measuring Success in DevRel
Moore discussed the metrics used to measure success in his position, noting that FusionAuth is still early in its metrics journey. However, key elements he has been tracking for some time are based on exposure and growing recognition of the FusionAuth brand. As a result, he has focused on traffic to the website that can be influenced by his efforts and qualified leads. He is wary of the idea of hard goals with incentives tied to them, however, because it can shift the focus from value to results. There’s value in authentic marketing and evidence presented to key prospects. In particular, in developer relations, a lack of authenticity can be very frustrating for the target audience.
As part of this focus, Moore speaks to the importance of nurturing and relationship building in the sales process. Rather than only focusing on that initial engagement and sale, it’s key to focus on broader usage, growing agreements, and nurturing the relationship between a company and its customer base.
On The Slack-Mindset
The conversation turned to Moore’s recent blog post about the problems created by synchronous chat. Specifically, Slack and tools like it fall down when it comes to long-term knowledge sharing. In a community setting, answers can fly by quickly. So people continue to ask the same questions repeatedly, making it difficult to scale management of such a community.
So, despite the preference of many internal teams for synchronous tools, plain, basic old forums that have been used since the 1990s are still among the most effective tools in the developer community. That’s not to say synchronous chat is a bad thing. Companies looking for tight feedback loops and direct interaction with every developer using their software should utilize synchronous chat. But as a company scales beyond the capabilities of any single user to keep up with the conversation, more traditional knowledge base solutions and forums are recommended.
The Future of DevRel
Asked to think about the future of DevRel and what the advancement of the industry will look like, Moore offers two predictions. First, the discipline will continue to shift more online than ever. COVID accelerated a push that was already taking place, and while meetups and in-person engagement are not dead, they are becoming less relevant because of the cost and accessibility factors that live events present. His other prediction is that large companies will start implementing a C-suite tier position for developer relations that reports directly to the CEO in the next five years.
The Chief Developer Relations Officer or something comparable will move outside the traditional silos into which DevRel is frequently put and drive the conversation forward within large corporations still experimenting with the discipline. DevRel is inherently cross-functional, making it difficult to place within any one bucket, so the natural next step will be for it to evolve into a standalone business discipline and become a part of the fabric of company culture in many organizations. This evolution is already underway and will only continue to accelerate in the years ahead.