Software developers work in teams and collaborate with employees from different departments across an organization. Thus, an organization shouldn't measure a software developer's performance on an individual level.
Instead, the entire team is assessed based on several productivity metrics, such as the number of commits, lines of code, code reviews, and pull requests. Therefore, to measure the productivity of your software developers, you need to look at the whole set, not just a single metric.
But the main question is, why is measuring software developer productivity even important? This process is essential because it helps organizations remove current and potential barriers to productivity and enhance their team's performance.
However, evaluating software developer productivity is not as easy as it sounds. Some complications arise when measuring developer productivity due to limited resources or micromanaging. A company must differentiate between the right and wrong ways to measure developer productivity and make the most of their effort.
6 Ways To Measure the Productivity of Your Software Development Teams
Measuring different business aspects helps you understand what parts of your operations are working and what are not. The same applies to assessing your software development teams' productivity. However, you need the right software developer productivity tools and methods to succeed quickly.
Here is how to measure software developer productivity correctly:
Measure Team Productivity vs. Individual Developers
The most obvious way of measuring software development productivity is to assess every individual on the same level. However, it's not the right way since every developer performs different tasks and, that too, in a team. Therefore, it doesn't make sense to evaluate all individual performances on a similar standard, right?
If you still want to measure every developer's performance, you can use these metrics:
- Number of code reviews
- Frequency of code reviews
- Number of commits
- Average commit size
- Time to review
It's better to look at these individual metrics as a holistic picture. In addition, these metrics also should be assessed based on the individual's contribution to the team when working on a project.
But we'll still emphasize "measuring teams, not individuals."
Understand this with an example. Assume a team consisting of devs (who ship new features), janitors (who ensure operations run flawlessly), coders, engineers, and experts who can't code but have valuable knowledge about software development.
Since every person performs different tasks, measuring by the team would make more sense in this case, right? When measuring team productivity, here's what you need to look at:
- Total number of JIRA tickets closed
- Output per sprint compared to previous figures
- Continuous production of valuable software
- "Velocity budget" depending on tasks multiplied by the complexity
Make Use of the SPACE Framework
As mentioned above, you can't measure developer productivity with a single metric.
For instance, if you evaluate a developer's productivity based on the number of outputs, you might miss their number of commits or other crucial aspects. It's possible that the developer may be working late, the outputs are of low quality, or the outputs fail to offer customer value.
To cover every critical aspect of productivity, Nicole Forsgren collaborated with researchers from Microsoft and GitHub to create a SPACE framework. This stands for:
- S: Satisfaction
- P: Performance
- A: Activity
- C: Communication
- E: Efficiency
This framework offered a holistic view of "how to measure developer productivity" and provided managers with the right productivity developer tools to assess changes.
Developers are like your regular employees. They need encouragement to stay motivated to perform more work, show eagerness to improve, and enhance their skills for better team outcomes. A good working environment and culture result in developers' satisfaction and, thus, higher productivity.
To evaluate developers' satisfaction, you need to understand what factors affect their happiness and well-being — for example, collaboration on impactful projects, appreciation by colleagues, and value creation among customers.
When developers have access to advanced tools and resources and stress-relieving activities, they're more likely to be more satisfied and productive.
The performance of a developer is the result of their input. But unfortunately, it's almost impossible to correlate a developer's performance with the business's overall outcomes. That's because the total business outcomes result from all the departments, including sales, customer service, marketing, and HR.
Thus, to evaluate the developer's performance, you must focus on business- and developer-specific outcomes.
- Developer-specific outcomes: These include the absence of bugs, quality, reliability, and overall service health.
- Business-specific outcomes: These involve adoption, customer satisfaction, cost reduction, time-saving, and feature usage.
A developer's activity refers to the number of outputs or actions performed during work. You can gain insights into this metric, but you might be limited at some point. For example, you can measure the number of actions a developer takes daily, but you can't determine whether those steps made any impact or not.
You can measure a developer's activity through:
- The volume of design specs
- Pull requests
- Code reviews
- Build counts
- Deployment frequency
- Incident mitigation
Since developers work in teams, they must communicate with different people to produce high-quality results. The entire software development process is based on constant feedback, discussions, and creativity among team members. Developers with practical communication tools will be more satisfied and productive.
To assess their communication and collaboration resources, companies need to measure:
- Onboarding developer experience
- Qualifications of reviews
- The nature of collaboration among teams
Developer efficiency refers to the progress a developer makes without getting interrupted by external or internal factors. It can also be denoted as "a continuous flow of work." Every employee, including developers, needs a working environment with minimal barriers and distractions to work consecutively for hours.
In addition to the flow of work, the flow of knowledge and information is also essential. Usually, talents get lost in the pile of knowledge. For example, even a software developer with comprehensive software delivery knowledge can't convey information or skills to everyone involved in the team.
Some metrics to evaluate the efficiency and flow of a developer are:
- Ability to quickly complete tasks
- Amount of handoffs necessary for a process
- The time required across the system or the time between functions
Identify Productivity Tools That Could Aid Productivity Measures
Developers are always in the hassle of designing and building new software. Like other aspects of businesses, you need the right productivity measures in place for your development team. But how do you measure the productivity level of a developer more accurately and efficiently?
Measuring the productivity level usually depends on dimensions such as git commits, planned releases, regressions, and velocity. To choose the most accurate dimensions of productivity, you need to evaluate what suits your organization's needs. But how do you identify them?
Most of the time, the measurements arise from the outcome or impact of the process. If you'd know what impact you want to make, you'll automatically understand how to identify the right productivity tools to measure performance.
Some productivity measurement tools include:
- HubSpot: Customer relationship management (CRM)
- Monday.com: Team productivity tool
- Wrike: All-in-one collaboration tool
Emphasize Developer Satisfaction
The bottom line for every step a company takes is to make employees' lives easier. So while measuring software developer productivity, you need to opt for tools and performance measures that focus on developer satisfaction.
Since a happy developer is more likely to be productive, you can also find ways to reduce the software engineer's workload and stressors. When you provide your teams with a good development environment, you show your developers that you care and want to make things easier for them.
However, while emphasizing developer satisfaction, organizations must always ask this question: "Are our efforts leading to better business outcomes with less input?" If the answer is yes, your employees might be more productive.
Pinpoint Any Barrier to Productivity There May Be
As crucial as performance evaluation is, removing productivity barriers is equally essential. Your development team can face obstacles from different sources, such as from the user's end, IT staff, or the company's management.
Multitasking can also be a critical barrier to productivity. When employees start to juggle different tasks, they feel more stressed due to recurring pressure. In addition, poor communication among the team members is a common productivity barrier. It leads to consistent delays in task completion, affecting the overall output of the business.
To remove these barriers, you must first identify them and determine their sources. Doing so will help you better evaluate your development-specific objectives when measuring software developer productivity.
Identify Key Metrics Aligned With Software Development Productivity
Identifying key productivity metrics that play a significant role in software development productivity is essential. You can assess the productivity of your development team based on the following metrics:
- Lines of code (LOC): Also known as source lines of code (SLOC), lines of code is a metric that measures the size of a software or application by counting the lines present in the text of its source code. Companies use LOC to predict the total effort a development team requires to develop a program. Then, when the software is produced, they use LOC to estimate programming productivity.
- Commit frequency: This refers to the frequency and number of code commits software developers generate when working on a development project. By measuring this metric, companies can quickly see how often developers perform actual work on the codebase. However, it isn't as effective when measured alone. That's because a high number of commits doesn't ensure the quality of the work delivered.
- Pull requests: This metric is used by companies as actionable indicators used for software engineering team management. It is a method through which developers submit contributions to an open development project, primarily using a distributed version control system (DVCS).
- Code review: Also referred to as peer review, a code review is a software quality assurance metric in which a team of experts views and reads parts of a program's source code. The team checks into a program after implementation. No team member should be the code's author. People performing the checks are called "reviewers."
- Build counts: In software development, build refers to the method by which source code is translated into a separate form that can easily be run on a PC or to the form. Builds are produced when the code is considered ready for implementation, mainly for testing or releasing.
- Deployment frequency: It is a crucial DevOps metric that tracks the frequency of code deployment in the staging, testing, and production phases.
To get more precise and accurate insights into your company's software developer productivity, you must correctly evaluate the above-listed metrics.
Challenges When Measuring Productivity of Your Developer Team
Companies need to be precise when measuring the productivity of their software development team. Even if you're doing everything right, you're still exposed to several challenges, including the following.
Ambitious Startups Often Try to Achieve Maximum Performance Without the Resources
The biggest challenges that most startups face are limited resources to hire a talented workforce, deploy advanced tools for maximum efficiency, and create favorable work conditions for employees. These are just a few challenges to name.
Of course, every startup owner wants to reach the skies: get more and more sales without looking back. Well, chances are that you're already on the right track and achieving your KPIs, but the thing is, good times don't always stay.
You might be tiring your employees by achieving maximum productivity goals. That's actually not good for the employees or your business. The employees are more likely to be burned out, resulting in less productivity.
Moreover, it's hard for startups to build and deploy modern tools and evaluate productivity metrics because of limited resources. This makes it quite hard for businesses to measure developer productivity in their early stages.
Micromanaging Can Lead to Angst With Development Teams
Typically, companies hire a nontechnical person that oversees the work performed by a software development team. When engineers with years of software development experience and knowledge report to someone with no technical background, they're likely to have trust issues.
That's understandable, as nontechnical managers require more information about every project since they have no idea what is happening and how things work. Unfortunately, once they gather more information, they usually make development-related decisions that a developer needs to follow. This results in micromanagement led by a less qualified manager.
Productive engineering teams need a sense of trust and control to give their best.
To overcome this issue, companies need to establish tech leadership consisting of highly qualified tech experts and provide more autonomy to the development teams.
Measuring Lines of Code Produced Doesn't Necessarily Lead to High-Quality Code
Many companies think that the work output of software development can be measured via the lines of code or commits. Yes, the LOC metric is an integral part of the productivity measuring process, but it is more like a byproduct than an outcome.
Typically, a line of code that doesn't solve an issue is worse than having no code at all. The number of lines of code produced doesn't ensure that it is high-quality or valuable for the company.
Therefore, measuring a developer's productivity from the number of lines of code they contribute is like measuring a machine's ability by how much waste it produces. Unfortunately, it doesn't contribute to your business goals.
What's more problematic is that a developer who is paid for the number of lines of code produced can easily earn a whole year's salary in a day without contributing anything to the business value. Well, everyone in the software development industry understands that lines of code and commits shouldn't be the only measure of success.
Yet, many managers still get impressed by more than 2 billion lines of code spanned by Google. However, we know that this doesn't make Google useful.
How to Maximize Individual Productivity and Team Level Performance
A solid software development team is a crucial part of every business, whether healthcare, teaching, or technology. They work in teams and collaborate with other programmers, coders, and engineers to design, develop, and deploy programs in different business aspects. Like other business aspects, measuring software developer productivity is also crucial.
You can measure the productivity of individual developers and team productivity with our six tips. These include using the SPACE framework, identifying productivity tools, emphasizing developer satisfaction, pinpointing barriers in productivity, and identifying key metrics.
Since software developers work on different tasks in a team, it's better to evaluate the performance of your developers on a team level instead of individually. Moreover, to maximize the productivity of your development team, you need to ensure their autonomy and satisfaction through feasible work cultures and environments.
Employees who are content with your company are more likely to work passionately and show eagerness to improve. Plus, you need to hire professional developers ready for leadership roles in your company. Such developers perform better and motivate the entire development team to be more productive.
If you want to hire a quality software developer to upscale your software development team, Revelo is here to help. The platform gives companies access to a talent pool of professional Latin American developers who they can hire remotely. The platform also takes care of all the legal and payroll compliances.