Even as a tech industry, we increasingly underestimate the importance of developers–too many within the enterprise think developers aren’t relevant to their business. Sure, some grudgingly accept that developers can have a say in infrastructure decisions, but application-level decisions? No way.

This is a profound mistake, one that many companies will discover to their hurt, as Forrester makes clear in a new brief, “Developers Must Shape Digital Experience Platform Investments.” While this brief covers a particular area of software–digital experience platforms–its application carries much further to all areas of software.

In short, “Without engaged developers, organizations will fall behind the competition’s digital experiences,” because a business’ ability to iterate quickly to meet or exceed customer expectations ultimately depends on its own developers.

Agnostic about developers

Redmonk has been preaching the developer gospel for years, calling them “the new kingmakers.” In other words, enterprises increasingly depend on developers to make technology decisions as they rush to build applications. Indeed 50% of cloud spending already routes around CIOs through developers as they eschew IT to serve the needs of line of business leaders.

SEE: Your enterprise needs more developers… a lot more (TechRepublic)

Far too many assume this means that developers are primarily useful for choosing between data platforms, figuring out which cloud provider to use, or other infrastructure-related decisions. But, as Forrester highlights, developers are increasingly critical at every level of the software stack.

From the report:

Too often, digital investment focuses on enabling business practitioners like digital marketers while treating developer tooling as a secondary concern. But this is a risky strategy, as digital disruption demands control when essential skills are shifting.

Too many companies invest heavily in digital, but do so in suboptimal ways: “Most expertise resides in agencies, SIs, and the vendor’s professional services team.”

Rather than invest in developers, who can quickly respond to a company’s shifting business needs, enterprises try to offload their application requirements to outside parties, which forces them into a downward spiral of dependency on others.

As I’ve stressed, developers are the gift that keeps on giving, and should be prioritized as such.

What developers hath wrought

Forrester makes it clear how developers help: “Developers care about the technology, the developer ecosystem, and their ability to operate at speed and scale. When these concerns go unmet, the business’ ability to control its digital destiny lessens.” The more an enterprise needs to accelerate its pace of innovation, the more it needs to make developers first-class citizens in all areas of software development, not merely infrastructure.

SEE: Face it: Developers are becoming babies (TechRepublic)

Of course, often this developer focus will shift how companies think about infrastructure. More developer control is almost certainly going to mean more public cloud adoption, because real cloud equals real speed, as Forrester highlights: “Provision a server, and you set the organization back weeks. Spin up a new, virtual instance on public cloud infrastructure, and you’re up and running in minutes.”

As digital becomes the primary battleground for winning over customers, enterprises need to cede more control of their digital strategies to in-house developers. Software truly is eating the world, and companies that control their software through developers are going to win while those who outsource to agencies and others simply won’t be able to move fast enough to keep up.