Measuring efficiency in software development — and therefore developer productivity — is notoriously difficult. Some people even claim it's not possible.
While it may not be directly possible to measure the full value of the software that your development team creates (and the value of the time that goes into creating that software), you can measure wasted effort, and reduce it to optimize software development productivity.
Here’s what you need to know to measure developer productivity and improve it across your team.
In software development, your application, website, code, and more are likely being continually updated. Bugs need to be resolved, updates need to be made, and new features that appeal to users need to be added to continue improving their experiences.
Software evolution is inevitable and necessary.
But how do you know if the hours your team puts into developing your site or app are productive? How do you know your team is being the most efficient they can be?
Tracking the efficiency of software development gives you insight into wasted hours, discarded code that wasn’t used, and where you can refocus and improve team processes to maximize efforts.
Tracking development efficiency shows you the full value of the software your team creates:
Lost productivity means wasted time and money that could otherwise be spent on other, more productive tasks. It’s crucial to measure developer productivity to maximize employee efforts and time put into projects.
There are a few software developer productivity metrics that can help you keep your team on target and maximize efforts.
One important developer productivity metric to track is how much code gets written but never goes into production. Wasted code can be one of the biggest indicators that your team is not working as efficiently as they could be.
Keep track of how much code gets written and discarded altogether This can reveal underlying problems with unclear or frequently changing guidance from product or business managers, or too much time spent on experimental tasks.
Code churn isn’t inherently good or bad — but too much, having it too soon after it goes into production, or not having enough can all be red flags regarding developer productivity.
Keep track of:
Track when, where, and how frequently code churn takes place to get a better view of your team’s code quality.
Sprint velocity (the average story points completed during each sprint) can be a top indicator of whether your teams are consistently hitting goals.
Keep track of:
It is important to look at the consistency of both the size of the team’s commitments, and the accuracy of what they completed compared to what they originally promised. If a team can reliably deliver a similar amount of work each sprint, then this indicates that your team is likely working effectively.
However, if you’re taking longer than the time you estimated, it can indicate:
Code that’s written may not always make it into production. However, it’s important to know if there are recurrent issues regarding why code doesn’t make it into production.
Evaluate the underlying reason why code isn’t being put into production to determine whether it represents a problem, and, if so, what lower-cost vetting can be done at an earlier stage to prevent developers from wasting time on something that never ships.
While a modest level of code churn is imperative to helping maintain software, add new features, and improve user experience, having too much or having it too soon can be a red flag and lead to wasted hours.
Help individual team members reduce code churn by showing them how to better self-edit. When team members self-edit and fix their own code before review (and before production), it saves more senior developers from having to go back and rewrite the code to shorten or improve it.
An important part of this is setting clear expectations that developers should submit code for review only when they believe it is ready for launch, rather than cutting corners with testing and leaning on reviewers to detect problems.
One reason your teams may have a high level of code churn is that review processes are not robust enough. Give better guidance on expectations so that team members are rewarded for reviewing code thoroughly, even if it takes away from other tasks.
Also, make sure that reviewers assess automated test coverage and manual test procedures as part of the review, which can help reduce the chances of problems slipping through the cracks.
Tools like minware are your best assets for tracking and improving software development efficiency.
Rather than basing software developer productivity on the number of lines of code written — which is a poor and potentially counterproductive productivity indicator — minware gives your team a complete overview of the software development life cycle.
With minware, you can track things like:
minware’s analytics reveal anti-patterns, empowering teams with valuable data to make software development as efficient as possible.
While some may insist that measuring software development efficiency is not possible, that’s not the case. Rather than trying to directly measure the value of software your team creates, instead, focus on the wasted effort.
Keep track of key developer productivity metrics like code churn, the amount of code written that doesn’t go into production, and the estimated vs. actual time it takes to complete tasks. Take advantage of tools like minware that show you where those wasted efforts lie — in the time it takes code to go into production, code churn, time to merge, and more.
When you get a complete overview of the lifecycle of your code across your software development team, you can find places to improve processes and help your team work more effectively.