Developer Program Trends for 2017

In 2017 almost  every company with a developer facing product has a Developer Program.

These dedicated programs consist of tactics designed to help developers use your software platform, tools, API and services.

Some companies run their programs with a one person sub-team, others are multi-million dollar dedicated units with hundreds of people. No matter, the challenges they face are similar. Common hurdles include creating awareness in the developer community, getting the developer to take action once they’re aware, creating power users, securing enough internal funding for the program, and keeping developers engaged and active will all be high on the list of objectives for any developer program manager in 2017.

So, what are the trends in developer program management which will help solve those challenges? Here are our thoughts:

Granularity in role definition

There are many roles and job titles which come under the broad banner of the Developer Program. These include titles such as Developer Marketing, Developer Program Management, Developer Evangelist, Developer Advocate, plus engineering and product management. With the maturing of the industry 2017, will see greater differentiation and understanding of the individual roles and responsibilities.


Maturity of the practice

In 2015-16, we saw companies large and small launch developer programs because of the “me too” effect. Because a competitor or company in an org’s category began a developer program, companies began programs without a solid outcome or objective in mind. Money was spent hosting events, sponsoring conferences with little return being seen. 2017 will a see greater scrutiny of spend all around.


Return on investment

Speaking of spend, the return on investment for developer programs has long been a talking point. What is the value of a community, how can it be measured in terms which are meaningful for the business, especially if the core business is not specifically developer oriented. Success metrics will vary depending on the business, as some orgs will care most about retention of ‘active developers’, others will focus on ‘revenue generated per developer’ and some will attempt to tie developer activity back to supporting a company’s separate core business, think Intel or Samsung.


2017 will see greater focus on this topic of ROI, and we think it will see the first globally accepted models appearing which are transferable across companies – The first Net Promoter Score for developer programs.


Moving away from the Hobbyist

Mobile application development carried the promise of untold riches for anyone able to get a hit in the app store. The hype surrounding the opportunity brought hoards of part time or hobbyist developers to the table, and companies spent millions attracting them to their platform. Now in post-mobile 2017, we understand that developers needed to build a business, not just an app. Long term value in hobbyists is limited. We’re not saying they won’t be part of the picture, and we know break out IoT or smart auto innovations will come from that group. But in 2017 more marketing dollars and effort will be spent attracting professional development houses, startups and enterprise developers.



We’ve always talked about understanding your audience, and ‘developer’ as a title is very broad. At Catchy we think that it includes hands on coders, IT decision makers, startups and students. Then you can start to split by segment; IoT, Mobile, Game, Cloud and so on, all accompanied by their various sub groups. Programing language is another possible category, as is geography. Lots of developer marketing campaigns we see try to cast their net across all of these groups without ever really catching any of them. 2017 will see greater focus on understanding the true target developer and focusing bespoke marketing efforts towards them.


Quality not quantity

As a consequence of the previous two points, 2017 will see an emphasis on quality over quantity when it comes to developer programs. Too many times we’ve seen products launch, many from high profile names, with the promise of 50,000 apps, or we see in the press that so and so developer community has hit 1 million developers. But the truth behind those numbers is different. 50,000 apps that include thousands of phantom apps, never downloaded. 1 million developers registered but only a few thousand active and using the product. Maturity and diversity in our industry means that Developer Programs can no longer chase vanity metrics. 2017 will be about finding quality committed developers producing great products.

We look forward to working with our clients, new and existing to help them meet the challenges of running a successful developer program in 2017 and beyond.


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