Inner/outer loop time spent. The inner loop comprises activities directly related to creating the software product: coding, building, and unit testing. The outer loop comprises activities related to putting the code into production: integration, testing, release, and deployment. When developers spend more of their time in the inner loop, they are more productive; at top performers, this is about 70%.

Developer velocity index benchmarking. By comparing a company’s practices against its peers, it is possible to unearth specific areas to improve, whether in backlog management, testing, or security and compliance. Greater maturity in development practices is associated with better company performance.

Contribution analysis. This refers to assessing contributions to a team’s backlog. Using tools such as Jira, which measures backlog management, it is possible to spot trends that are damaging to optimization. The process can also reveal opportunities, such as improving the working environment, increasing automation, or enhancing individual skills, to fix problems that can hurt performance. One business, for example, found that the developers who were making the greatest contributions were spending too much time on noncoding activities. The company changed its operating model to ensure that they focused on what they did best.

Talent capability. The idea here is to be sure that the right people are in the right place. By deploying industry-standard capability maps, it is possible to create a score that summarizes the individual knowledge, skills, and abilities of a specific organization. This can reveal both gaps and bulges. For example, one company found it had a too many inexperienced developers. In response, it took action, including providing personalized learning journeys, and moved 30% of its developers to the next level of expertise within six months.

Combined with DORA and SHAPE, these tools effectively create a sophisticated view of software productivity. The insights revealed are intrinsically interesting. The value comes from using them to figure out how to keep developers motivated; whether they have the right tools and expertise; how they are using their time; and if staffing levels are correct. 

Improving an imperfect model

Like the Holy Grail, there are those who think that measuring developer productivity is a myth and that we are off base. But the 20 companies that we are working with would disagree.