Despite the lockdowns, software developers of all stripes remain in high-demand. Hiring more developers may not be possible, if simply for budget constraints. Fortunately, many methods can help you answer how to increase the productivity of a software development team at any stage of a product’s lifespan. Rest assured though, there is no single productivity solution. Quite to the contrary, the more productivity tips you apply, and the earlier you apply them, the greater your results will be.
How can development team productivity be improved?
It’s worth stating upfront that it’s difficult to improve that which isn’t defined, measured, or tracked. To maximize your development team’s productivity from the get-go means setting up your definitions, standards, and tracking capabilities. These first three tips help avoid waste, optimize your team for each project, and help you proactively identify problems at any stage of development.
Start using automated software development analytics like Gitential or Waydev as soon as you can. Automated software that plugs into tracking all of the work your developers do with your Git repositories makes it easy to track a wide range of metrics. Metrics help to measure productivity, efficiency, quality, and teamwork so you can quickly identify and respond to red-flag issues. Over time, this data can quantify and qualify each developer’s work with specific programming languages so you can optimize your team for each project.
Double down on project requirement specifications and the product roadmap. Over half of the reasons why projects come in late and over budget owe to ill-defined project requirements and mid-stream changes to them. This is particularly true for Minimum Viable Products and their development process as driven by end-user data and feedback. The extra effort here helps avoid wasted effort, but also allows for more giving detailed tasks to developers. Less ambiguity correlates to higher productivity.
Establish and enforce coding standards, definitions for “good enough code” and resources you encourage your developers to use. Developers tend to spend more time reading code than writing it. This effort aims at ensuring everyone who works on your team applies to a consistent style – to make it easy to read, understand, and find bugs.
How to Increase Developer Productivity in the Short-Term?
If you need to know how to increase the productivity of your software development team “now” – there are several items to look at. According to Stripe, developer inefficiency has reached 31.6%. A useful axiom of the Pareto Principle states, “A majority of defects are caused by a minority of issues.” It’s likely that by following the next five tips that you can cut your inefficiency by up to half.
The first thing every team can look at is reducing and eliminating distractions – whether working in the office or telecommuting from home. Harvard Business Review provides ten tips for limiting distractions n this subject alone from using asynchronous messaging to using “Do Not Disturb” Signs and avoiding “Responding to All” in emails unless necessary.
Structure and review all of your regular meetings for participation requirements. Even if your developers need to be at a meeting, their presence is likely not required for the whole meeting. Meetings can be recorded and shared as needed. Minutes can be taken and shared as needed.
Try this meeting cost calculator to see how much you’ll save. Multiply it by 52 for weekly meetings and 252 for daily meetings. For the fully-loaded cost (benefits, office space, etc.), multiply it by another 1.25 to 1.40.
Plan for timely code reviews. Each organization schedule’s them differently – daily, weekly, and otherwise. For productivity purposes, code reviews should be done in close proximity to when the actual work was done – so the original developer has it fresh in mind. Software development analytics can help you pair up developers for code reviews, and it’s a good time for enforcing coding standards, too.
Managing the size of your Git repositories may start out as a small issue. The more frequently your team commits and how they integrate non-binary (media) files can cause your repository to bigger — and slow down. Worse, if you hit the repository size-cap of your Git manager – like GitHub, GitLab, or BitBucket, you won’t be allowed to add any more to your repository – shutting everyone down until you fix it.
Ensure all team members are trained in how to use your project management software (PMS) to your standard. There are a lot of different programs on the market like Jira, Basecamp, Trello, Asana, etc. They each have their pros, cons, and feature sets. If there’s a problem managing your sprints, it’s likely not an issue with the PMS – but with how it is being used.
Mid-Long Term Methods for Improving Productivity
The lifespan of the average software program is 6-8 years. Large and complex programs may have a lifespan of 12-14 years. Taking care of the short-term improvements may have a very incremental effect. But, given the likely lifespan of your project, if you mess up things early on, you’re likely to end up paying dearly for them in the long-run. There are three more tips which can have a huge impact on your productivity – mainly over the long-term.
Alongside average software lifespan, it is common for software developers to change jobs every 2 years. This presents the potential of having 3-7 completely different teams working on your project. While turnover among software developers in the United States is 12.3% per year, it can easily be higher than 25% for tech startups. Replacing a developer involves the cost of finding and onboarding a replacement plus the time they are at reduced efficiency in getting acquainted with your code.
Improving retention with continued education and career development programs can pay major dividends. A global shortage of qualified software developers makes it easy for software developers to find new jobs offering promotions, better pay, and opportunities to work on new technologies. Along with code reviews and mentoring programs, you can have a full suite of options to continuously improve your developer’s skill sets.
Optimize your team for each project. This extends from the very first tip of having software development analytics to track your developer’s performance. Over time, you’ll be able to know which of your developers is best in coding with a specific language or software components. Not only does this allow you to assign complex tasks to your best coder, but you can also assign easier tasks to developers not so familiar with a specific language.
Continuously keep an eye out for new resources, tools, and resources that can help improve productivity. Before adopting new technologies, review them to see if they satisfy your requirements. Then test them against your current benchmark to see how much of an improvement they offer – and how much of an effort will be required to implement them into your workflow. Think of this effort as if you were a Venture Capitalist where one out of every ten new tools ends up being a game-changer.
Final Notes on Productivity
Software development is a complex task. Many more tips on how to increase the productivity of your software development team could easily be added. Suffice, “A minority of problems are caused by a majority of issues.” They can still have a very substantial impact on the success of a project. Software development analytics is one of the easiest ways to find productivity and efficiency issues, big or small.