OPTIMIZING THE PERFORMANCE OF YOUR SOFTWARE DEVELOPMENT TEAM
Traditionally, software quality is thought to depend on sound software engineering practices and development methodologies (such as structured programming or agile development). However, software quality has also been shown to depend on good teamwork, specifically with respect to the interaction processes within a team. Since software development is primarily a team effort, it is important to understand the factors or characteristics in software development teams that influence team performance.
In today’s environment, it is really challenging to stay productive individually, and the same applies to team productivity. Luckily, there are many ways to optimize the performance of a development team without increasing its size or the number of working hours. Various tools are available to help increase team productivity. However, tools are just one element of the equation. A complex system is required that allows developers to get most out of their workdays and eventually, as a team, to meet their goals.
Before thinking about increasing the performance, it is necessary to define certain metrics, based on which conclusions will be drawn.
WHAT TO MEASURE
Following are some objective metrics that should be monitored continuously, to make incremental improvements to processes and production environments.
The basic metrics for agile and lean processes include lead-time, cycle time, team velocity, and open/close rates. These metrics aid planning and making decisions about process improvement.
Lead-time – defined as how long does it take to go from an idea to delivered software. Lead-time includes cycle time.
Cycle time – defined as how long does it take to make changes in a software system and deliver that change into production. Cycle time can be measured in months, minutes, and even seconds.
Team velocity – defined as the “units” of software a team can complete in one iteration a.k.a. “sprint”.
Open/Close rates – defined as the number of production issues that are opened and closed within a specific period. The general trend matters more than specific numbers.
These metrics give valuable information about where the essential processes need attention.
However, one cannot assume root causes based on these numbers.
Mean Time Between Failures (MTBF) – MTBF refers to the average amount of time a software/product works before failing.
Mean Time To Recover/Repair (MTTR) – MMTR refers to the average time required to troubleshoot and repair failed software and restore it to its working state.
Both these metrics are useful in measuring software performance in its production environment.
Application Crash Rate – defined as how many times an application fails divided by the number of times the application has been used. This metric is related to MTBF and MTRR.
None of these three metrics tells you about individual features or users affected. However, the smaller the number the better. Modern operations-monitoring software make it incredibly easy to gather detailed metrics on individual programs and transactions.
WHAT FACTORS INFULENCE PERFORMANCE
Five factors particularly influence team performance:
Team Coordination – software development involves work that is sometimes ambiguous, ill-defined, and incompatible with detailed upfront planning. In such scenarios, the ability to adapt efficiently to the changes is important to achieve product quality. Coordinating team members is thus very important for project success.
Goal Orientation – a team has a common performance goal to achieve. A goal-oriented, achievement-oriented team and a team’s ability to define clear and concise goals has major influence towards performance.
Team Cohesion – the tendency for a group to stick together and remain united in pursuit of a goal is termed as team cohesion. The more cohesive the team, the better the coordination which significantly increases performance. Conflicts in a team are inevitable. Conflict management helps the team do better and perform better.
Shared Mental Models – a major factor in any software development team is the ability of team members’ to acquire, communicate, and use relevant knowledge. A shared mental model represents the shared knowledge between team members. This helps the team members to communicate, understand tasks and relationships and coordinate actions.
Team Learning – shared mental models represent the state of the team. On the contrary, team learning blends process and state. Team learning includes reflection and action, identified by asking questions, seeking feedback, reflecting on results and experimenting.
HOW CAN DEVELOPER PRODUCTIVITY AND EFFICIENCY BE INCREASED
In the context of economics, productivity is how to measure outputs from units of input.
In a factory, the measurement of productivity is very straightforward. However, in the context of software development, productivity cannot be measured like a supply chain. Productivity in software development is not about working harder, but smarter and can be increased in various ways:
Defining Goals – The SMART framework can be used to define goals. SMART goals are
Breaking down big problems into smaller milestones helps decide exactly what the team needs to work on.
Setting Individual Expectations - having a one on one conversation with developers is one of the best ways to provide feedback and to set priorities, or discuss their roles in the project.
Feedback Loops – team leaders need to provide frequent and constructive feedback, helping team members improve and make sure they stay productive.
Eliminating and Minimising Unimportant Tasks – sometimes, team meetings can be a huge waste of time. Meetings cannot totally be avoided, so there are several ways to make them efficient:
Set a time limit
Have an agenda ready for the meeting
Close every meeting with an action plan
Giving Incentives and Motivating Developers – various studies have shown that a motivated team can do ten times more than an unmotivated team.
Since lots of companies follow agile methodology, the performance management should too. Apart from clear goals and frequent communication, the work environment has to support productive work as well.
Software-teams are going to face more and more challenges related to productivity in the future, as the projects get more complex and ambitious.
Large-scale software development is a collaborative activity, which requires human resources and coordination among them. As the scope of projects increases day by day, it is incredibly important for organisations to focus on optimizing team performance and get the most out of the team in the smartest way possible. The systematic ways of measuring team performance help in identifying high-performance teams in organisations and are useful in optimising the teamwork in software organisations.