6 Tips for Measuring Software Developer Productivity

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Bruna Vasconcelos
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Bruna Vasconcelos
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If you're managing a team of software developers, it's likely that productivity is at the top of your mind. Use the tips we've uncovered to help measure the productivity of your team.
Published on
June 27, 2022
Updated on
May 16, 2024

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.

Team Productivity vs. Developer Productivity

Each member of a development team has the same end goal—successful product launch. However, because each team member performs different tasks in pursuit of that goal, measuring each individual’s contributions against other team members is difficult. There are some common duties that most team members will likely perform during development, but as a manager, it’s important to recognize each developer’s primary responsibilities in order to make sense of these metrics in hopes of increasing developer productivity.

Metrics to Use to Measure Individual Performance

  • Number of code reviews
  • Frequency of code reviews
  • Number of commits
  • Average commit size
  • Time to review

Often, it’s more helpful to view these individual story points 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.

A development team consists of several types of members: developers who ship new features, janitors who ensure operations run flawlessly, coders, engineering managers, and experts who can't code but have valuable knowledge about software development. In order to save time and company resources, it’s typically more common to track the entire team’s overall metrics unless a verified individual metric for each position is already in place.

Metrics to Measure a Development Team’s Productivity

  • 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

Use the SPACE Framework

You can't measure developer productivity with a single metric. The SPACE framework, created by Nicole Forgsren and developers from GitHub and Microsoft, is a research-based approach to measuring developer productivity through multiple metrics. SPACE stands for:

  • S: Satisfaction
  • P: Performance
  • A: Activity
  • C: Communication
  • E: Efficiency

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. Through this framework, organizations often identify blindspots and methodically approach productivity.

Satisfaction

Like other employees, developers 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 autonomy and well-being—for example, collaboration on impactful projects, appreciation by colleagues, and value creation among customers.

Performance

The performance of a developer is the result of their input. It’s difficult to correlate a developer’s performance to business outcomes, especially in larger organizations. 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.

Activity

A developer's activity refers to the number of outputs or actions performed during work. Managers often gain insights by this metric, but might be limited at some point. For example, managers may measure productivity by the number of actions a developer takes daily, but 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
  • Commits
  • Code reviews
  • Build counts
  • Deployment frequency
  • Incident mitigation

Communication

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.

Measure communication with the following assessments:

  • Onboarding developer experience
  • Qualifications of reviews
  • The nature of collaboration among teams

Efficiency

Developer efficiency refers to the progress a developer makes without getting interrupted by external or internal factors, otherwise known as a continuous flow of work. Every employee, including developers, needs a working environment with minimal barriers and distractions.

Additionally, information and resources must be made readily available. For organizations, this usually means a navigable knowledge base where developers are able to quickly find appropriate resources. Some metrics to evaluate the efficiency and flow of a developer include:

  • Ability to quickly complete tasks
  • Amount of handoffs necessary for a process
  • The time required across the system or the time between functions

Productivity Tools For Developers

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. While several options exist, it’s important to identify the right tool based on company resources, organizational need, and project goals.

Some products, such as HubSpot, primarily cater to customer relationships with some focus on team productivity metrics. Platforms like Monday.com have a more singular focus—team management. Depending on front-end or back-end development needs, some tools may serve an organization better than others.

Some productivity measurement tools include:

  • HubSpot: Customer relationship management (CRM)
  • Monday.com: Team productivity tool
  • Wrike: All-in-one collaboration tool

Emphasize Developer Satisfaction

While measuring software developer productivity, you need to opt for tools and performance measures that focus on developer satisfaction. Most platforms have some degree of satisfaction ratings built-in to overall productivity metrics, but as a manager, it’s vital to maintain open lines of communication, foster autonomy, and provide the right resources to keep development teams satisfied.

Since a happy developer is more likely to be productive, you should 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 Developers’s Obstacles to Productivity

As crucial as performance evaluation is, removing productivity barriers is equally essential. Your development team faces obstacles from different sources, such as from the user's end, IT staff, or the company's management.

Multitasking is also 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 Software Development Productivity Metrics

Identifying key productivity metrics that play a significant role in software development productivity is essential. Managers 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 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 is easily 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.

Measuring Development Team Productivity Challenges

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.

Startups Asking for Maximum Performance With Few 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 achieve success and 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.

Organizations might be tiring employees by striving for maximum productivity goals without proper safeguards in place. 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.

A Micromanaging Boss Can Lead to Resentment

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, communication sometimes becomes strained. This lack of clear communication coupled with leadership pursuing a more hands-on approach in an unfamiliar process leads to micromanaging. 

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 Doesn’t Equal 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.

While uncommon, developers who are paid by lines of code are sometimes able to produce massive output in only days or weeks. If LOC is the only measurement in place, the developer is vastly underutilized and the organization is wasting valuable resources.

Yet, many managers are still impressed by more than 2 billion lines of code spanned by Google. However, we know that this doesn't make Google useful.

How to Improve Developer Productivity

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.

Since software developers work on different tasks in a team, it's more efficient 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.

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