Measuring Developer Productiveness through People

Someplace, proper now, a know-how government tells their administrators: “we
want a approach to measure the productiveness of our engineering groups.” A working
group assembles to discover potential options, and weeks later, proposes
implementing the metrics: lead time, deployment frequency, and variety of
pull requests created per engineer.

Quickly after, senior engineering leaders meet to assessment their newly created
dashboards. Instantly, questions and doubts are raised. One chief says:
“Our lead time is 2 days which is ‘low performing’ in accordance with these
benchmarks – however is there really an issue?”. One other chief says: “it’s
unsurprising to see that a few of our groups are deploying much less typically than
others. However I’m unsure if this spells a chance for enchancment.”

If this story arc is acquainted to you, don’t fear – it is acquainted to
most, together with a number of the largest tech corporations on the earth. It isn’t unusual
for measurement packages to fall brief when metrics like DORA fail to offer
the insights leaders had hoped for.

There may be, nevertheless, a greater method. An method that focuses on
capturing insights from builders themselves, quite than solely counting on
primary measures of velocity and output. We’ve helped many organizations make the
leap to this human-centered method. And we’ve seen firsthand the
dramatically improved understanding of developer productiveness that it

What we’re referring to right here is qualitative measurement. On this
article, we offer a primer on this method derived from our expertise
serving to many organizations on this journey. We start with a definition of
qualitative metrics and how you can advocate for them. We comply with with sensible
steering on how you can seize, monitor, and make the most of this information.

In the present day, developer productiveness is a vital concern for companies amid
the backdrop of fiscal tightening and transformational applied sciences similar to
AI. As well as, developer expertise and platform engineering are garnering
elevated consideration as enterprises look past Agile and DevOps
transformation. What all these issues share is a reliance on measurement
to assist information selections and monitor progress. And for this, qualitative
measurement is vital.

Be aware: after we say “developer productiveness”, we imply the diploma to which
builders’ can do their work in a frictionless method – not the person
efficiency of builders. Some organizations discover “developer productiveness”
to be a problematic time period due to the best way it may be misinterpreted by
builders. We advocate that organizations use the time period “developer
expertise,” which has extra constructive connotations for builders.

What’s a qualitative metric?

We outline a qualitative metric as a measurement comprised of knowledge
offered by people. This can be a sensible definition – we haven’t discovered a
singular definition throughout the social sciences, and the choice
definitions we’ve seen have flaws that we focus on later on this

Determine 1: Qualitative metrics are measurements derived from people

The definition of the phrase “metric” is unambiguous. The time period
“qualitative,” nevertheless, has no authoritative definition as famous within the
2019 journal paper What is Qualitative in
Qualitative Research

There are a lot of definitions of qualitative analysis, but when we search for
a definition that addresses its distinctive function of being
“qualitative,” the literature throughout the broad subject of social science is
meager. The primary purpose behind this text lies within the paradox, which, to
put it bluntly, is that researchers act as in the event that they know what it’s, however
they can’t formulate a coherent definition.

An alternate definition we’ve heard is that qualitative metrics measure
high quality, whereas quantitative metrics measure amount. We’ve discovered this
definition problematic for 2 causes: first, the time period “qualitative
metric” contains the time period metric, which means that the output is a
amount (i.e., a measurement). Second, high quality is usually measured
by means of ordinal scales which might be translated into numerical values and
scores – which once more, contradicts the definition.

One other argument we now have heard is that the output of sentiment evaluation
is quantitative as a result of the evaluation ends in numbers. Whereas we agree
that the information ensuing from sentiment evaluation is quantitative, based mostly on
our authentic definition that is nonetheless a qualitative metric (i.e., a amount
produced qualitatively) except one had been to take the place that
“qualitative metric” is altogether an oxymoron.

Except for the issue of defining what a qualitative metric is, we’ve
additionally encountered problematic colloquialisms. One instance is the time period “tender
metric”. We warning towards this phrase as a result of it harmfully and
incorrectly implies that information collected from people is weaker than “laborious
metrics” collected from methods. We additionally discourage the time period “subjective
metrics” as a result of it misconstrues the truth that information collected from people
might be both goal or subjective – as we focus on within the subsequent

Qualitative metrics: Measurements derived from people
Sort Definition Instance
Attitudinal metrics Subjective emotions, opinions, or attitudes towards a particular topic. How happy are you along with your IDE, on a scale of 1–10?
Behavioral metrics Goal info or occasions pertaining to a person’s work expertise. How lengthy does it take so that you can deploy a change to manufacturing?

Later on this article we offer steering on how you can acquire and use
these measurements, however first we’ll present a real-world instance of this
method put to follow

Peloton is an American know-how firm
whose developer productiveness measurement technique facilities round
qualitative metrics. To gather qualitative metrics, their group
runs a semi-annual developer expertise survey led by their Tech
Enablement & Developer Expertise workforce, which is a part of their Product
Operations group.

Thansha Sadacharam, head of tech studying and insights, explains: “I
very strongly consider, and I believe quite a lot of our engineers additionally actually
admire this, that engineers aren’t robots, they’re people. And simply
taking a look at primary numbers does not drive the entire story. So for us, having
a very complete survey that helped us perceive that complete
developer expertise was actually vital.”

Every survey is distributed to
a random pattern of roughly half of their builders. With this method,
particular person builders solely must take part in a single survey per 12 months,
minimizing the general time spent on filling out surveys whereas nonetheless
offering a statistically important consultant set of knowledge outcomes.
The Tech Enablement & Developer Expertise workforce can also be liable for
analyzing and sharing the findings from their surveys with leaders throughout
the group.

For extra on Peloton’s developer expertise survey, listen to this

with Thansha Sadacharam.

Advocating for qualitative metrics

Executives are sometimes skeptical in regards to the reliability or usefulness of
qualitative metrics. Even extremely scientific organizations like Google have
needed to overcome these biases. Engineering leaders are inclined towards
system metrics since they’re accustomed to working with telemetry information
for inspecting methods. Nevertheless, we can not depend on this similar method for
measuring individuals.

Keep away from pitting qualitative and quantitative metrics towards one another.

We’ve seen some organizations get into an inside “battle of the
metrics” which isn’t an excellent use of time or vitality. Our recommendation for
champions is to keep away from pitting qualitative and quantitative metrics towards
one another as an both/or. It’s higher to make the argument that they’re
complementary instruments – as we cowl on the finish of this text.

We’ve discovered that the underlying explanation for opposition to qualitative information
are misconceptions which we deal with beneath. Later on this article, we
define the distinct advantages of self-reported information similar to its capability to
measure intangibles and floor vital context.

False impression: Qualitative information is just subjective

Conventional office surveys usually give attention to the subjective
opinions and emotions of their staff. Thus many engineering leaders
intuitively consider that surveys can solely acquire subjective information from

As we describe within the following part, surveys may also seize
goal details about info or occasions. Google’s DevOps Research and
Assessment (DORA)
program is a superb concrete

Some examples of goal survey questions:

  • How lengthy does it take to go from code dedicated to code efficiently
    operating in manufacturing?
  • How typically does your group deploy code to manufacturing or
    launch it to finish customers?

False impression: Qualitative information is unreliable

One problem of surveys is that individuals with all method of backgrounds
write survey questions with no particular coaching. Consequently, many
office surveys don’t meet the minimal requirements wanted to provide
dependable or legitimate measures. Effectively designed surveys, nevertheless, produce
correct and dependable information (we offer steering on how to do that later in
the article).

Some organizations have issues that individuals could lie in surveys. Which
can occur in conditions the place there may be concern round how the information can be
used. In our expertise, when surveys are deployed as a device to assist
perceive and enhance bottlenecks affecting builders, there isn’t any
incentive for respondents to lie or recreation the system.

Whereas it’s true that survey information isn’t at all times 100% correct, we regularly
remind leaders that system metrics are sometimes imperfect too. For instance,
many organizations try to measure CI construct instances utilizing information aggregated
from their pipelines, solely to seek out that it requires important effort to
clear the information (e.g. excluding background jobs, accounting for parallel
jobs) to provide an correct outcome

We’re releasing this text in installments. Future installments will
describe the 2 sorts of qualitative metrics, clarify their advantages,
and go into element on how you can seize them.

To seek out out after we publish the following installment subscribe to the
web site’s
RSS feed, Martin’s
Mastodon feed, or
X (Twitter) stream.