Every day, more enterprises are embracing technology to drive business value. Software solutions have become one of the biggest differentiators of success in business digitalization. Software intelligence tools are quickly becoming a valuable investment for many companies seeking improved productivity, efficiency, and strategic planning in their software development.
So, what are software intelligence tools and how do they improve software development?
What are Software Intelligence tools?
Software intelligence tools are usually third-party applications or services provided by platforms that help software producers to evaluate and monitor software either in development or in production. Like Business Intelligence tools, they analyze data generated during regular operations, apply specific calculations to the data, and return key insights to guide business strategy and decision-making. There are many great tools on the market today, but each has something unique to offer users.
Typically, software intelligence tools provide insights into features of software like:
- Technical health (software complexity, technical debt management,)
- Developer performance (work effort, capacity, quality of output, experience)
- Industry-based benchmarking capabilities
- Software security and stability
- Architectural integrity
These insights can be reported as easy-to-digest KPIs, or scores that can be read immediately. Data that has been processed and mined for insights with software intelligence tools can be monitored over time with automatically updated dashboards or exported as reports.
The major advantage of software development tools is the visibility they offer into the development lifecycle and team performance. Better visibility improves communication between technical teams and executives who may be further removed from the day-to-day challenges of software development. These insights can boost productivity and efficiency in the development lifecycle, by helping software leadership to:
- identify development bottlenecks
- streamline development processes
- mitigate technical debt
- provide better support for dev teams
- forecast effort for future projects
- guide strategic planning
- justify budgetary needs
How to choose the right software intelligence tools for your organization
As executives put more focus on ensuring productivity and efficiency, however, investment in software insights is starting to grow. With the wide variety of software intelligence tools on the market, it can be challenging to find the right solution for your organization. To help, we’ve compiled our 5 top tips for choosing the right software intelligence tools for your needs.
1. Establish your goals
Before looking at any software intelligence tools, it’s important to identify what your goals are. Every business investment stems from a business problem that needs to be solved. Software intelligence and insights are no different. Investing in a new tool or platform is a big decision, so you must understand why you need them.
Some of our clients, for example, found that the further removed from development they were, the less visibility they had. Reduced transparency made it hard to report or communicate exactly what’s going right–and what’s not, when speaking to other executives or members of their respective BoDs. For them, their goal was to gain visibility into the development process. Some of our other customers were having difficulties managing complexity and technical debt in their development. This ended up posing a significant threat to their bottom line. Their goal was to find a tool that could help with assessing and addressing this problem.
When setting your goals, you also need to consider who will be using the tool you choose. For executives that aren’t directly involved with software development, it may not be feasible to invest in software intelligence tools geared towards software engineers or technical leads and vice versa. Instead, we suggest choosing tools that suit your primary users’ informational needs best.
2. Compare vendors and their services based on your goals
With a clear idea of what you want out of your software intelligence tools, it becomes relatively easy to narrow down a list of vendors and products that fit the bill. However, when comparing vendors, it’s important to take a close look at what they have to offer before committing.
Many vendors provide useful breakdowns of their services and how they can be used. When vetting multiple vendors, it’s a good idea to create a spreadsheet or table to compare what each has to offer, and what they don’t. Comparing vendors based on what their services actually provide alongside your established goals can help further refine your list of vendors. This is especially useful when you have a clear idea of what insights you need, and how they will be used.
3. Evaluate integration requirements
A major concern when contracting SaaS services is how they will integrate with your existing system. Before contracting a vendor, it’s a good idea to evaluate their integration requirements against your native IT security requirements. This is important on two levels:
- Ensuring that any integration with external SaaS solutions does not expose your organization’s data to security threats.
- Determining the setup and ramp-up time for new tools.
Integration requirements that go against your organization’s data security protocols may not be the best choice. If setting up and configuring integrations results in system downtime, then you may also want to choose a different intelligence tool.
4. Determine the Time To Value of New Solutions
The Time To Value (TTV) of new solutions is important to consider when choosing software intelligence tools. Some tools may not bear fruit until weeks or months later, while others can start providing usable insights much faster. When evaluating the time needed for software intelligence investments to create positive ROI, be sure to consider:
- time for installation and configuration
- ramp up time (the time necessary to get users up to speed)
- time until useful data can be extracted
Solutions that offer a faster return on investment across all three of these areas should be at the top of your list.
5. Combine tools
One tool may not always be enough for your needs. For example, you may already be using a software intelligence tool that works great, but if the insights it provides are too technical for anyone outside of your development team to use, then it might not be enough. In that case, you might want to invest in a second tool, to provide insights in a more digestible and readily accessible way.
What’s more, when considering the wealth of software intelligence solutions already on the market, it can be tough to get everything you need in one package at a cost that suits your budget. This is where combining tools can prove invaluable.
Align your choices with long-term goals
Creating a well-rounded approach to tracking your software development productivity, code quality, and security means striking a balance between insights that are actionable and communicable. Foreworth’s platform, for example, provides deep insights into code quality, development health, knowledge distribution, and other high-impact metrics in an accessible and easy-to-use way. It also offers exportable reports and intuitive dashboards for better communicability.
Whatever software tool you end up choosing will be part of your organization for some time. So, like any other investment, to get the best bang for your buck, be sure that it aligns with your organization’s long-term goals. Learn more about popular software development KPIs for gaining deeper insights here.