The 21st century executive

The Top KPIs for Measuring Development Team Productivity

development team

There’s perhaps no greater resource available to a tech company than that of their development team. They make the magic happen, fixing bugs and developing new features from out of what seems like thin air. For many on the business-facing side of things, however, it can be hard to see beyond the magic of it all. Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are a great way to measure your team’s productivity and ensure your software development efforts are on track. 

What is a development team? 

Your development team is responsible for the creation and implementation of a software product or service. They are involved in the planning, programming, testing, and analysis of the different functionalities being created or maintained in a project.  

It can often be difficult to clearly see if your development team is as productive as you’d like them to be. KPIs can help point you in the direction of what’s going right and wrong in your development efforts. 

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What are KPIs? 

 Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are measurable values to show how well a company is meeting their objectives. In software development, they’re powerful tools for making the development process more efficient.  

Before setting your KPIs, it’s important to make sure that you’re following “SMART KPIs”, meaning they are:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Relevant
  • Time-bound

This will help ensure you’re collecting useful, realistic data that will have the greatest impact on your software development efforts as possible.  

Clearly defined KPIs can empower project leads to identify, track, and raise issues or find areas for improvement. This, in turn, keeps tech stakeholders abreast of ongoing efforts while also giving development teams the insights they need to optimize their workflows and set performance benchmarks. After all, more productive teams lead to higher ROI.  

What is team productivity? 

 Team productivity refers to the ability of employees to complete tasks while also maintaining a certain level of quality in their work in an established period of time. In software development teams, it’s important to establish the quality of work expected and the allotted time given to each task before beginning to measure your team’s work. 

Top 8 KPIs for Development Team Productivity  

The following are some of the most popular KPIs for measuring team productivity in software development teams. It’s important to remember that values that may be good for one company might not work for another. What’s most important is to start measuring as soon as possible and to try to maintain your current numbers or consistently improve on what you are already doing. 

  1. Team Velocity 

    Velocity is the most popular metric for measuring team productivity. It represents the amount of work accomplished within a given period. In agile terms, it’s determined by the number of story points hit by the dev team within a sprint. Velocity is best used for forecasting project times and ascertaining what teams can handle in a sprint. One caveat is that it’s easy for developers to game Velocity metrics by simply reporting more story points, which can be detrimental to team trust and transparency.   
  1. Cycle Time 

    Cycle Time measures work achieved over time but doesn’t rely on story points. This KPI measures the time taken to complete a given task. It’s a fantastic way to measure development team output within a given sprint without the concern of inflated story points. Shorter cycle times usually mean greater productivity, especially when related to project completion.    
  1. Throughput 

    Throughput is a more detailed way of looking at what work is completed within a given sprint. It measures the total work completed by the development team (e.g., new features added, bugs resolved, or tasks completed). Tracking these items can help in evaluating individual developer workloads and seeing how their time is being spent during sprints.   
  1. Maintainability 

    Maintenance efforts can easily take up to 80% of development capacity, making hard-to-maintain software a huge drag on productivity. Maintainability describes how easy it is to repair, improve, or add new features to the existing code once a product has been released. One popular method for tracking this is the Maintainability Index: a compound formula using several other software quality metrics.   
  1. Burndown Charts  

    Burndown charts are a popular tool for tracking work completed over a given period. They typically show the total tasks or story-points that the team has agreed on and the progress in completing them until a pre-determined date. The two most common charts used are Sprint Burndowns and Release (or Product) Burndowns.   
  1. Code Coverage 

    Code Coverage is a measure of code quality that shows how much code has been unit tested and executes as expected. When code coverage is low, it suggests that there may be bugs present or that there has been insufficient testing. Undertested code is a major source of technical debt.   
  1. Code Stability 

    Code stability measures the number of additions to code that don’t impair product functionality. It’s measured as the percentage of code written over a given period resulting in code downtime. Stable code should not break existing code and is a fantastic way to track efficiency in your development teams.   
  1. Code Churn 

    Code churn is another code quality metric that reflects developer efficiency by measuring how long a given unit of code stays productive. Hastily written code might not be well-thought-out or optimized for the project. Down the line, this can be costly in terms of dev capacity––hampering overall productivity. Code with high churn rates help to highlight areas for improvement.    

Use What Works for You  

While this is not an exhaustive list, these KPIs can certainly help pave the way to more efficient and productive development teams. We also suggest taking a look at our article on the Key Risk Indicators to track in software development projects. 

Bear in mind that in software development there is no “one-size fits all” solution. Some KPIs might be more valuable than others depending on your product and development process. It’s essential that business leaders and their tech stakeholders come together to agree on what KPIs are most beneficial for their specific situation. Even with the best KPIs at your disposal, communication is still the key to elevating team performance. 

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About the author
Juan Pablo González

Working as Foreworth’s Chief Technical Officer, Juan Pablo (JP) manages the company’s technical strategy. With nearly 20 years of experience in software development, he ensures the development process at Foreworth is meeting its keys objectives and technical requirements.

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