Rapid Growth + Technical Debt = Slow Engineering Productivity? Here's What You Need to Know
5 min read
As a leader, you're always looking for ways to grow your team and business. But as your company grows, you'll quickly realize that there's a delicate balance between growth and technical debt.
You see, many tech companies experience rapid growth. This means they have to scale and develop many new features quickly. Often, these companies put an excessive focus on growth while trying to not lose sight of code quality. On top of that, rapid onboarding puts further stress on the engineering team to keep technical debt at a minimum. For many tech companies, the combination of rapid growth and technical debt slowly kills engineering productivity.
But how do you know if your engineering team's productivity is starting to slow down? And more importantly, how do you fix it?
Don't worry, we've got you covered. In this article, we'll explore how engineering productivity works, how to measure it, why measuring it is essential, and steps for improvement.
What Is the Engineering Productivity Paradigm?
First things first, let's define what we mean by engineering productivity. The engineering productivity paradigm tries to measure and optimize the engineering process by tracking various engineering-related metrics. The goal here is threefold:
Identify problems within the engineering process
Reduce the time needed for the engineering team to deliver new features
Allow for experimentation with different processes, techniques, and tools to further improve the engineering process.
As Asim Husain, VP of Engineering at Google, explains, engineering productivity has a huge impact on product delivery.
"It's humbling to see how engineering productivity has improved so many products and teams across Google through innovative infrastructure and engineering rigor. When you work in Engineering Productivity at Google, you can see your impact: better products, faster releases, and greater reliability."
How Is Engineering Productivity Measured?
Engineering productivity refers to the ability of engineers to complete tasks and achieve goals efficiently and effectively. It is a measure of how much output is produced per unit of input, and is often used to evaluate the performance of engineers and engineering teams. There are several different ways to measure engineering productivity, each with its own advantages and disadvantages.
One of the most basic ways to measure engineering productivity is through output-based metrics. These metrics focus on the number of units produced, the number of bugs fixed, or the number of lines of code written. Output-based metrics are easy to understand and can provide a quick snapshot of how much work is being done. However, they do not take into account the quality of the work or the complexity of the task. For example, an engineer who writes a large number of lines of code may not be as productive as one who writes a smaller number of high-quality lines of code.
Another way to measure engineering productivity is through time-based metrics. These metrics focus on the amount of time it takes to complete a task or achieve a goal. Time-based metrics can provide valuable insights into how long it takes for engineers to complete tasks and can help identify bottlenecks in the process. However, time-based metrics do not take into account the quality of the work or the complexity of the task. An engineer who takes longer to complete a task may not necessarily be less productive than one who completes the task quickly.
A more comprehensive way to measure engineering productivity is through value-based metrics. These metrics focus on the value that the engineer or engineering team is providing to the organization. Value-based metrics take into account factors such as the quality of the work, the complexity of the task, and the impact on the organization. For example, an engineer who is able to develop a new product that generates significant revenue for the organization is considered more productive than one who simply completes a large number of tasks.
One of the best ways to measure engineering productivity is through a combination of metrics. By using a combination of output-based, time-based, and value-based metrics, organizations can gain a more complete understanding of how engineers are performing. For example, an engineer who is able to complete a large number of high-quality tasks in a short amount of time is considered highly productive.
Why Is Measuring Engineering Productivity Important?
Measuring engineering productivity is important for organizations to understand how engineers are performing and to identify areas for improvement.
Measuring engineering productivity helps organizations identify bottlenecks in the process. By understanding how long it takes for engineers to complete tasks and achieve goals, organizations can identify areas where the process may be slow or inefficient. This information can be used to implement changes to improve the process and increase productivity.
Additionally, measuring engineering productivity helps organizations to improve decision making. By having accurate data on engineering productivity, organizations can make informed decisions about how to allocate resources, prioritize projects, and invest in new technologies. This can lead to better decision-making and improved overall performance of the organization.
Furthermore, measuring engineering productivity can also improve employee motivation. When employees know that their productivity is being measured and that it is being used to make decisions about rewards and recognition, they are more likely to be motivated to perform well. Additionally, when employees can see that their productivity is improving, they are more likely to feel a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction.
Measuring engineering productivity is also essential for setting goals and targets. By understanding how engineers and teams are currently performing, organizations can set realistic and achievable goals for improvement. This can be used to motivate and engage employees, as well as to measure progress over time.
How Can You Improve Engineering Productivity?
Improving engineering productivity starts with measuring data. Collect four weeks' worth of data about your current engineering process. This will give you a baseline to compare future changes to.
Next, make gradual changes to your engineering process and measure the impact of those changes. Experiment with different processes, techniques, and tools to see what improves or slows down your team's productivity.
And finally, make sure to keep an eye on your team's technical debt. The more technical debt your team has, the harder it will be to improve engineering productivity.
In conclusion, engineering productivity is a delicate balance between growth and technical debt. By measuring engineering productivity, identifying problems, and making gradual changes to improve your process, you'll be able to keep your team's productivity high and your technical debt low. So, don't neglect this important aspect of your startup, and start measuring your engineering productivity today!
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