In rapidly growing companies and competitive sectors, new developers need to slot into the team and start contributing to the business almost immediately. If they’re working in an agile environment, it’s even more critical for developers to feel comfortable in their new role.
To hit the ground running, developers need to understand how their work contributes to the business and impacts the customer. In other words, they need to have commercial awareness.
Commercial awareness is the ability to understand what makes a business or organisation successful.
We can hear your cries… It’s hard enough to find sales or marketing employees who are commercially aware, how are you supposed to find business-savvy developers? And why is it so important? Wouldn’t a mind-blowingly talented, super-technical developer be a better hire?
Keep reading, and all your questions will be answered.
To find out what other skills e-commerce developers can’t live without, and how to make sure they have them, download our free e-book!.
Why is it important for e-commerce developers to have commercial awareness?
In an agile environment, developers don’t work in a vacuum. Their work impacts their team, the company’s bottom line and – most importantly – the customer. No matter how clean and functional the code, if a developer isn’t building products that are useful for the customer, they’re not contributing to the success of the company.
Commercial awareness is a key part of an agile mindset. Check out these three principles of the agile manifesto:
- “Our highest priority is to satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of valuable software (number 1)”
- “Welcome changing requirements, even late in development. Agile processes harness change for the customer’s competitive advantage (number 2)”
- “Business people and developers must work together daily throughout the project (number 4)”
E-commerce and travel tech companies move fast. So it’s crucial that all employees work towards the same goal: giving your company an edge over your competitors. This means that developers should always have one eye on the company’s business strategy – who the target customers are and how their work impacts them.
How to know if a developer has commercial awareness:
Now you know that having commercial awareness is as important as being a DevOps wizz. But how do you know whether a developer has it? What does a “commercially aware developer” look like?
Obviously there’s not one right answer (we wish). But there are six clues we look for when hiring developers for e-commerce. If they tick the following boxes, they have a good understanding of the business and the customer – which is exactly what we’re looking for.
Does the candidate:
- Understand their company’s overall business goals
- Have an idea of how the company makes money
- Know who their customers or “target audience” are
- …also know who the company’s competitors are
- Understand how their work impacts the business and the customers
- Work towards a bigger goal than “great code”
The big commercial awareness secret
You’ll be pleased to know there’s also one giant clue (we saved the best for last). Good developers should understand the importance of commercial strategy – and be interested in it.
The single most important factor when we’re assessing whether a developer has commercial awareness is whether they ask about our clients’ commercial strategies.
- Are they interested in their business model and customer bases?
- Are they eager to find out how the company works?
- Are they keen to know how their work will contribute to the company’s success?
If they don’t ask any questions about the company, product or customers, it is a big red flag.
Example questions to ask to see if a developer is commercially aware
If you’ve been following our How to hire developers for e-commerce series, you should have a massive stack of example questions piled up by now! As we always say, these are just examples to give you some inspiration – we always adapt questions to the role, product and company.
Questions to assess whether a developer is commercially aware:
- Do you know what the company’s business model is (how they make money)?
- How does a user “convert” into a customer?
- Who are the company’s competitors?
- What changes have you made to the product that affects the user? And how did these changes affect conversion rates?
- What have you done to directly affect the company’s bottom line?
- How do you measure the success of your work? And how does your company measure the success of their product?
- How do you prioritise your workload / decide what work to do first?
- Tell me about the target audience / customers at your current company – do you know what their needs or interests are? How is your product benefiting them?
Are you ready to hire developers with commercial awareness?
It’s might not be easy to assess, but commercial awareness is one of the most influential factors in determining whether a developer is successful. Hiring for commercial awareness might be painful, but we promise that it’s worthwhile. It will also make your job (and the developer’s) a hell of a lot easier further down the road.
Still not convinced that soft skills and culture fit are important?
For more information about hiring e-commerce developers, take a look at the rest of the blog posts in our series:
We’ve also put together an e-book full of super useful developer-spotting tips and tricks. From profiles to interview questions, it has everything you need to start filling your tech team with
aliens e-commerce developers.