How to measure developers' productivity?

Measuring the developers' productivity is crucial for every software service or product company. It is both beneficial for the engineers and the organization. Tracking the evolution of each team member is a step to preventing the decline of motivation. Also, gathering and analyzing the right insights and acting upon them can lead to sustainable productivity increase. 

If you have experience in the field, you already know that it is a delicate matter. You don't want to reduce your developers or any team member to numbers. Our developers are much more than code deliverers. They base their decision making both on their technical and soft skills. But how do you measure developers' contribution to an organization - sensibly and effectively? 

One way is to measure code modifications: line or file additions and commit frequency. It is a great way to measure activity, but it doesn't work quite the same with productivity. 

Why?

Activity volume might be irrelevant - commit frequency and line output might be high but it doesn't necessarily mean effective work. 

Here is an insight into how we at Melon measure effectiveness. We do it by the number of tasks marked as DONE. Here are the steps we go through before reaching the endpoint - in our case the label "done". 

Planning 

Have a clear process of acquiring specifications. Whether you'll apply lean startup principles or agile development methodology, be sure to understand the specifications. This includes understanding the problem, defining the solutions and creating a minimum viable product. How do you decide whether your planning phase works? Compare estimated time vs. actual time spent on development and see if there is a big difference. Identify why and try again. 

Process 

Communication is King, no matter what your market position is. Offering software development services means working with team leads, UX/UI specialists, front-end and back-end developers, quality assurance masters and DevOps. You can imagine how crucial it is circulating information about specifications, requirements, bugs, etc. Again, incorporate methodologies for smooth communication and distribute roles in your team smartly. This all can result in minimizing the lead time of your projects. 

Qualifications 

Choose a way to measure the whole process of implementation. For example, you can use story points based on the Scrum methodology. 

Story points are a unit of measure for expressing an estimate of the overall effort that will be required to fully implement a product backlog item or any other piece of work. Story points give more accurate estimates, they drastically reduce planning time, accurately predict release dates, and improve the team's performance. 

Quality 

Here, the definition of “done” is critical.

Did you use a short-term solution just to meet the deadline? Or have you put an extra effort to find a solution that will have a positive long-term result? This stage can be measured by tracking the number of bugs and reopened issues of a certain software development project. 

Sales

Compare your rates. How are your developers performing according to the engagement model of the project? 

Financials 

Establish a process for work report approval. This would give you and the team clarity about the project plan and where the work stands. The advantages are saving time in decision making, meeting deadlines, and spotting problems before they occur. One way to measure the effectiveness is to compare actual time vs. billable hours.

As you see, measuring developers' productivity is not a one-way street. 

Their productivity goes beyond technical skills. It is also about motivation, good communication, clear goals and specifications, on-time reaction, etc. Effectiveness is key to software development companies’ growth. That's why it is important to find a way that works for you to measure it.