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July 11, 2024

Pfizer’s Developer Experience Transformation: Driving Innovation through Culture Change

By Summary by IT Revolution

In a recent presentation at the 2024 Enterprise Technology Leadership Summit Virtual Europe, Jamie Hook, Director and DevOps Lead at Pfizer Digital, and Laura Tacho, CTO at DX, shared the story of Pfizer’s Future of Development program. This comprehensive initiative aims to transform the developer experience and foster a culture of innovation, enabling Pfizer to keep pace with its ambitious goal of changing one billion lives per year by 2027.

The Need for Change

As one of the world’s largest pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies, Pfizer has experienced significant growth in its commercial digital function over the past decade. With a team scaling from around 100 people to over 3,000, maintaining a spirit of exploration and technical excellence became increasingly challenging. The organization faced issues such as outdated ways of working, increased vendor partner turnover, and a rapidly changing technological landscape, particularly in the realm of security.

The Future of Development Program

Recognizing the need for change, Pfizer launched the Future of Development program to support its wider corporate ambition. The program’s vision statement, “Thriving and joyful tech teams, possibilities continuously explored, high standards, value and speed,” encapsulates the goal of creating an organization that attracts and empowers engineers, fosters continuous improvement, and delivers value efficiently.

Key Initiatives of the program include:

  1. Principal Engineers: Pfizer is elevating the concept of principal engineers to leadership positions across all key projects. These trusted technical leaders will drive solution delivery, align with the technical strategy, and contribute to building a strong community of engineers.
  2. Making the Right Choice Easy: The program aims to make adopting best practices and new ways of working as seamless as possible. This includes providing tailored training, access to industry certification courses, and investing in CI/CD tooling to identify security and code quality issues early in the development process.
  3. Retaining Talent and Knowledge: Pfizer seeks to create an environment where retaining talent and preserving technical knowledge is the default choice. This involves improving documentation, establishing enduring teams focused on developer experience, and evolving the delivery model.
  4. Pilot Projects and Long-Term Investment: The Future of Development program selects large, impactful projects as pilots to establish the principal engineering role and guide teams in delivering with urgency and experimentation. The initiative is a long-term investment, with dedicated teams working on training, security, and tooling improvements.

Challenges and Lessons Learned

Implementing a program of this scale comes with its own set of challenges. Gaining momentum requires significant human investment, clear communication, and support from influencers at all levels of the organization. Establishing shared understanding, managing resistance to change, and intentionally curating the company culture are all critical aspects of the transformation process.

Measuring Success

To assess the program’s impact, Pfizer employs a multi-level measurement approach, tracking metrics at the program, project, and developer experience levels. Early results show promising improvements, such as a 33% decrease in developer attrition risk, increased code quality and security, and enhanced delivery capabilities.

Looking Ahead

In the coming months, Pfizer aims to have training plans and content developed for all platforms, a new permissions model in place, and proactive secret and credential management tooling implemented. The organization also expects to see a continued increase in developer satisfaction and the successful placement of principal engineers in their new roles.

Conclusion

Pfizer’s Future of Development program is a testament to the company’s commitment to fostering innovation and empowering its technology teams. By transforming the developer experience and cultivating a culture of excellence, Pfizer is positioning itself to tackle the challenges of a rapidly evolving industry and ultimately achieve its goal of changing one billion lives per year. The lessons learned from this initiative serve as valuable insights for other organizations seeking to drive change and unlock the full potential of their technology teams.

Watch the full presentation in our video library here.

Sign up for the next Enterprise Technology Leadership Summit here.

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Summary by IT Revolution

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