The introduction of Agile Software Development and DevOps methodologies enabled technology-led organizations to develop and deliver better software faster than ever, thus substantially improving their business performance and outcomes. With technology now underlying every aspect of how businesses operate, efficient software performance is critical to enterprise success.
As DevOps powers innovation and business growth, processes and workflow execution become increasingly complex, raising the question of how to scale productivity in order to maintain high performance. Technology professionals are constantly researching ways to be more efficient and productive at their jobs (this is how the DevOps discipline emerged).
Developer productivity and satisfaction have a direct impact on the quality and efficiency of software development and business performance yet remain elusive and difficult to measure.
The impact of developer satisfaction on productivity
The tech world commonly emphasizes the importance of engineers’ satisfaction in order to increase productivity at an individual and team level. Software companies and startups frequently advertise employee perks aiming to create a flourishing work environment, the reason being that happy engineers are considered more productive and retained. In reality, improving developer productivity is more elaborate than setting out beanbags or offering free workout sessions.
Developer productivity is a multifaceted performance indicator of software engineering that requires a holistic view of how to define, measure, and maximize it. Understanding its deep intricacies and implications for software development teams can help developers and organizations improve processes and produce higher-quality software.
Moreover, because productivity and satisfaction are deeply interconnected, developer productivity becomes essential in ensuring the well-being and happiness of developers, which is especially important now as we are looking towards a hybrid/remote future of work. Therefore, improving developers’ satisfaction and well-being directly impacts engineering and business outcomes.
Rethinking developer productivity metrics
With DevOps enabling modern organizations across industries to significantly improve their business performance through faster release cycles, understanding and measuring developer productivity accurately becomes a top concern for both executives and DevOps/SRE professionals. In practice, many leaders or teams focus on a single metric when evaluating developer productivity, which leaves them with incomplete and unreliable performance indicators. GitHub’s Dr. Nicole Forsgren argues that measuring developer productivity requires more elaborate metrics to capture its deep intricacies and create a positive impact at an individual and organizational level.
To do so, Forsgren suggests implementing the SPACE framework, elaborated in collaboration with fellow experts in the DevOps/SRE space to incorporate what Forsgren considers the essential “dimensions of developer productivity: satisfaction and well-being; performance; activity; communication and collaboration; and efficiency and flow.” However, the researcher advises organizations to focus on balanced developer metrics linked to organization goals rather than a single dimension or all of them at once. The aim of the SPACE framework is to provide a holistic view of developer productivity that will enable companies to produce better software more efficiently while ensuring developers are fulfilled with their work and driving better collaboration and team success.
Developer Productivity Roles
The broad implications of developer productivity create different approaches to maximizing the productivity of software development teams. One such approach is Developer Productivity Engineering. Because project success inherently increases toolchain complexity, it aims to improve productivity through automation tools and technologies instead of focusing on metrics or best practices.
Today, business success depends on how fast organizations can develop and deliver higher quality software. Unfortunately, the acceleration and growing complexity of processes and workflows negatively impact productivity. Furthermore, low developer productivity affects developer happiness and hinders further business innovation.
Formulated by Gradle’s Founder and CEO, Hans Dockter, Developer Productivity Engineering (DPE) incorporates a team of experts focusing exclusively on automating the toolchain, an organizational culture committed to improving developer productivity, and data-driven priorities and success indicators.
As software projects register exponential growth, Dockter argues that engineering teams need to scale the toolchain efficiency to maintain or even improve developer performance. Developer Productivity Engineering achieves this by accelerating the software development and testing workflow. According to Dockter, faster builds improve developers’ creative flow. Furthermore, faster feedback cycles empower developers to request feedback more frequently–the more often they receive feedback, the more fine-grained their work is.
In this context, the role of developer productivity engineers is to build software and automate the DevOps framework to allow engineers to utilize their full potential and focus on what matters most–developing innovative software. Indeed, according to a 2020 study on developer velocity, cutting-edge tools are the primary factor that improves business performance. Furthermore, the study found that having access to efficient tools and technologies at every stage of the development lifecycle contributes to increasing developer satisfaction and retention.
However, enabling software engineers to be more productive also requires establishing a culture where teams feel safe to experiment and fail. The DevOps framework provides organizations with both high technological opportunities and a culture based on shared knowledge and responsibility, transparency, and continuous learning and improvement.
More than a simple performance indicator, developer productivity is essential in helping executives and DevOps and SRE professionals achieve better engineering outcomes, ensure developers’ well-being, and deliver on business goals. Thinking about developer productivity metrics in balance allows teams to identify gaps in their processes better and define the right approach to improve productivity and significantly impact developers and the business.