Managing worker productivity is a challenge for every business. There are several variables that could help managers boost productivity. Conversely, there can be several factors that have the opposite effect. Circumstances can change without warning, which means productivity management is that much harder. On top of all that, it gets even harder to simply measure productivity with unconventional or technical roles, such as developer productivity.
Measuring developer productivity is often far more difficult than most other kinds of roles. Part of this is simply the nature of the role. Devs don’t just “speak another language”; they work in it too – several of them, in fact. The nature of coding and the pitfalls involved can often seem too complex for a non-techie to understand. Therefore, workforce managers may find that they need to develop developer productivity metrics that are more understandable and informative.
Understanding and Measuring Productivity Better
Dev productivity, like any other role, is defined by how productive the resource is during a given time frame. Businesses typically create productivity metrics or performance indicators unique to the personalized requirements of the business, but development can often be very complex and involve a myriad of processes.
So, while you could use a standard baseline to measure productivity, it may not guarantee maximal efficiency. A web dev may get deployed more often than a maintenance dev, for example – different standards must apply to each. The client to whom they are deployed may have different frameworks for their websites and systems. Accordingly, this could mean they both have different timelines. As a result, the same metrics may not apply to both.
The SPACE framework is a new guideline for how to measure productivity in software development. It may not always be applicable to all types of business, but the framework generally covers better indicators of a developer’s output than many others can manage. The SPACE framework covers:
Satisfaction and Well-Being (Motivation)
Developers are workers with complex technical knowledge and experience. However, that is secondary to the fact that they are people, just like any other worker. That means they have emotional, financial, and professional needs that drive them. When these needs aren’t being met, workers begin to lose this drive and motivation. That includes developers.
Dev resources with lowered or reduced motivation will almost inevitably deliver lower output levels. This can include errors, mistakes, loss of focus, increased conflicts, and much more. Lost motivation can quickly snowball into an unmanageable situation unless addressed. Measuring dev motivation or their satisfaction and well-being can be a reliable measure of their productivity. Satisfying these two factors will include gathering information on:
- How satisfied do your dev workers feel?
- Whether they have access to the tools and equipment they need.
- Whether there have been instances of exhaustion or burnout.
Performance (Productive Output)
Performance, in the context of development, translates into successful outcomes. Poor outcomes, by that rationale, indicate poor performance. This can be a tricky metric, since it may not always be possible to trace back a business outcome to a developer. There can be several other contributors like marketing, sales, or other customer-facing functions. Therefore, measuring performance needs to take into account both developer and business outcomes. This could include examining:
- The quality of the work, the reliability of the resource, the number of bugs, and final system health.
- Customer reviews, feedback, adoption, utility and feature success, and the development costs incurred.
Activity (Actions Performed)
When discussing development, activity refers to the number of productive actions the resource took during a working day. This is not always possible, since there may not be ways to measure all the actions a dev took during a working day. As a result, the insights you gain, while valuable, will likely be limited. Moreover, the quality of the actions performed also needs to be taken into account.
Communication and Collaboration (Collaboration)
Communication and teamwork are just as important in dev teams as any other. In fact, since Devs have to work very tight deadlines, their communication and collaborative abilities have a far lower margin than others. Dev teams typically work on various aspects of a project in parallel.
A gap in communication or teamwork could seriously disrupt deliverables and timelines. Assessing soft skills like communication, team playing, openness to work, and collaborative strengths should be core to any dev talent acquisition strategy.
Efficiency and Flow (Uninterrupted Productivity)
Efficiency and flow typically refer to doing the most productive work in as short a time as possible. It reflects how much a developer can accomplish in the absence of interruptions or disturbances. This can include ad-hoc or emergency work that is not part of the usual workflow, such as a technical interview to assist cybersecurity staffing.
Achieving a state of flow can often only happen in the absence of disruption. Measuring this can include examining the number of handoffs made during a day, the time in which work was completed, and the average time most similar workers require between assignments.