Estimate project

How to Improve Developer Productivity for Long Term?

Techlife   -  

January 05, 2022

Table of Contents

In recent years, a great number of businesses ranging from retail to banking have lavished their capital on software development, as part of the strategy for revenue growth. Whether the execution of software development is managed by an in-house team, an offshoring partner, or an outsourcing supplier, one of the most common concerns of many CEOs, CTOs, and CIOs is how to improve developer productivity.

While many business leaders approach this question from a high-level perspective and thus prioritize overarching solutions, the key to business performance improvement probably lies in the executive team’s day-to-day experience, which top-level managers often overlook. However, by minimizing the small-scale friction and maximizing developer productivity, we can accelerate the project and launch new products sooner.

What Factors Influence Developers Productivity Thumbnail

McKinsey & Company also shares this view. By April 2020, they published a report on the drivers of developer productivity. And they coined a term called “developer velocity”. This in fact has nothing to do with the velocity metric in Agile software development. “Developer velocity” means the company’s capability to help developers unleash their full potential and bring about the best results possible. These drivers fall into three main categories: technology, working practices, and organizational enablement.

Recommended reading: Gamification in the Workplace: How to Get It Right?

The Key Drivers of Developer Productivity

This list of drivers was first validated by over a hundred CTOs, CIOs, and other senior engineering leaders. It then became the basis for an in-depth survey of senior executives from 440 large enterprises. They are to weigh in on the importance of each criterion. And they evaluate how much their firm has lived up to these standards, too.

What Factors Influence Developers Productivity - Categories
The 46 drivers of developer velocity. Source: McKinsey.

The very first takeaway from this report is that the four factors with the greatest impact on developer productivity are tools, product management, culture, and talent management. 

Many business leaders consider tools as the most important drivers of business success. But only 5% of the executives surveyed acknowledge and rank it among the top three enablers. It’s also noteworthy that although the top-level managers believe agile ceremonies at a team level play a crucial role in improving business performance, it is not fully aware by the executives across different industries.

Recommended reading: What Is Pair Programming? Types, Pros, and Cons

How Does Developer Productivity Influence Business Performance?

Researchers have examined how developer productivity is correlated with revenue, total shareholder returns, and operating margin. They have also taken into account other non-financial business performance indicators, namely customer satisfaction, innovation, talent management, and brand perception. As a result, they figure out that companies with high DVI scores, a metric used to assess the company’s capability in improving developer productivity, tend to achieve better outcomes. 

What Factors Influence Developers Productivity Tools

In particular, the companies among the top 25% of best working environments for developers earned a revenue growth of five times as much as that of the bottom ones during the period of 2014-2018. Shareholders’ returns are 60% higher and operating margins are 20% higher, too. Nevertheless, all the non-financial business performance indicators are much more promising. These are the companies that attend closely to the improvement of their developer productivity by removing the points of friction at work and investing in the critical drivers. The report also shows that the sectors that are mature in digitalization, specifically software, discrete manufacturing, and financial services, have higher DVI scores.

1. Web Developer Salaries in Vietnam 2022
2. How to Become a Full-Stack Developer? Does It Suit You?
3. The 8 Best Full Stack Developer Courses With Certificates
4. Who Is a Full Stack Developer? A Detailed Guide

How to Improve Developer Productivity?

1. Invest properly in tools

Since tools are apparently the primary drivers, it should be the first and foremost area of improvement that every leader must focus on. Equipping your team with best-in-class tools, be it planning, collaboration, or development tools, definitely result in better performance. What we could learn from the top 25% of companies with the highest DVI score is that we should let developers have certain choices, depending on their needs and interests. But it is necessary to limit the number of tools to avoid uncertainty and unexpected mismatches.

Some companies adopted low-code or no-code platforms to let their team develop applications without prior knowledge of the software development needed. It also helps save developers time for more important tasks.

2. Nurture a culture that encourages psychological safety

Environments that do not tolerate mistakes, albeit minor, would cause anxiety among developers and thus eliminate the possibility of major breakthroughs. It is therefore vital to build up systems that could minimize the cost of errors. Controlled releases, feature flags (the ability to turn features on and off without redeploying code), and automated rollbacks are some of the capabilities worth investing in.

What Factors Influence Developers Productivity Team
Create a workspace of collaboration, not confrontation.

Moreover, developers must feel psychologically safer working in a culture that embraces failures and contingencies. They must be encouraged to learn from their mistakes. Open sharing and constructive reflection within the executive team are the keys to a higher staff retention rate and continuous improvement. Rewards and recognition policy must also be worth consideration.

3. Empower every member of the product management team

Regarding this area of improvement, most practitioners lean towards treating it as a whole of various balanced attributes rather than focusing on any single one. And the product management team is expected to have knowledge about not only technical aspects but also about the business and the market. Every developer should be ready to wear the product manager hat to see the big picture of their work. And they could also see how their works are in line with customer needs and business priorities. This has become a must if we want the product to be launched on time, on budget, and on scope.

4. Initiate the policies of attracting and retaining talents

In accordance with the rise of software engineering in the market, the number of rock-star developers has continuously increased. Nonetheless, only the enterprises that employ the most talented developers win the chance to be on top. And no surprise that the company with the highest DVI scores really knows how to keep its staff.

Developers at those companies receive better incentives and training programs. They also have a clearer vision of their career path. This leads to a higher level of employee engagement and hence, a more productive working time.

So, the question to all business leaders is how to make the software talents happy and motivated. Answer that question, and your business can fulfill the last missing piece of how to improve developer productivity.

Also published on

Share post on

Insights worth keeping.
Get them weekly.



Enter your email to receive updates!

Got an idea? We can help you realize it.


Enter your email to receive updates!