Developer productivity and how SREs can track it better

We’ve put together this guide to help SREs boost developer productivity by enhancing collaboration, strengthening infrastructure, and streamlining processes. Read on to discover the importance of strong developer productivity in SRE and insights into achieving a more effective software development life cycle in your organization.

May 17, 2023

Developer productivity is a deceptively simple concept. 

It’s deceptive because although it might seem logical to rely solely on output-based metrics for measuring developer productivity, this approach doesn’t always provide a holistic perspective on the software development process. 

Modern software development is a dynamic process where projects need to be constantly produced, maintained, and adjusted according to changing market demands. It includes several development, testing, debugging, and deployment processes, all of which work in tandem to produce an efficient software development life cycle (SDLC). 

Holistic software development productivity also ensures quality output, which makes it an important aspect of SRE. It entails tracking and enhancing the productivity of each of these processes and ensuring smooth collaboration between different teams in the organizational workspace. This can be done by regularly testing and enhancing the standard organization-wide processes that support important development activities like onboarding, software design, coding, testing, service integration, and deployment. Investing in the efficiency of the underlying process architecture that supports development cycles is crucial to boosting development productivity in your company. The far-reaching effects of holistic developer productivity on output quality and resource efficiency make it a relevant goal for SREs.

To understand how to improve developer productivity, SREs first need to come up with their ideal definition of development productivity. 

Defining software development productivity

Software development productivity can be defined in several different ways. Businesses may choose to focus on various output-based metrics such as developer time to code or define productivity by the health and efficiency of their onboarding processes. However, SRE is usually concerned with a more comprehensive concept of productivity. Regardless of the definition chosen, many elements need to be brought together to create an overarching and holistic concept of developer productivity.

  • One of these is the ease of onboarding. This refers to the ability of new developers to quickly become familiar with the company's development environment, processes, tools, and technologies. When onboarding is efficient, new team members can contribute to projects faster, which improves the overall productivity of the team.
  • The second important element is the ease of collaboration. Collaboration is essential because multiple developers could be working on the same codebase simultaneously. If communication channels are not clear and effective, it can result in delays and hinder productivity. Therefore, businesses that prioritize collaboration tools and practices tend to have more productive teams.
  • Finally, agile velocity is another critical aspect of software development productivity. Agile velocity refers to the speed at which a team can deliver new features or updates. High agile velocity indicates that a team is working efficiently. Across-the-board agility in work environments directly impacts the productivity of other team members, creating a virtuous cycle.

The role of developer productivity in SRE

SRE teams work closely with developers to ensure that applications are built and deployed in a way that maximizes system uptime and reduces the frequency of incidents. By monitoring developer productivity, SRE teams can identify potential bottlenecks in the development process and proactively address them before they impact system reliability. This includes monitoring metrics such as code review turnaround time, deployment frequency, and test coverage, among others.

Additionally, developer productivity monitoring can help SRE teams identify areas for improvement in the development process, such as implementing automated testing or improving documentation. Improvements in these areas ultimately lead to an improvement in build quality, which adds to the reliability and availability of the system.Tips For Enhancing Developer Productivity 

To better understand how to improve developer productivity, we’ve divided our tips into two sections - 

  • Tips for improving developer time to code 
  • Tips for strengthening tooling and SDLC infrastructure 

Tips for improving developer time to code 

Here are a few productivity tips that can help organizations strengthen their onboarding processes and reduce developer time to code

Implement well-defined and high-quality development architecture

A well-defined, robust development architecture creates a foundation for building high-quality, maintainable software systems, which can save time and resources in the long run. It can also significantly reduce the time it takes to code by enabling new developers to quickly get up to speed and work efficiently with a company’s codebase. 

When an organization has a well-defined development architecture, new developers can easily understand the codebase, which makes it easier for them to contribute to projects. They spend less time figuring out how everything fits together or understanding poorly designed code. This reduces the time to onboard new developers and increases productivity across the development team.

One of the best practices for creating a solid development architecture is to use sound design patterns that are easy to understand. Design patterns provide proven solutions to common software development problems, which can simplify the development process and help developers and software engineers in writing better code or refactoring poorly written ones.

Using design patterns also makes it easier to maintain the codebase in the long run from an SRE perspective. This is because the code is more organized and structured, which makes it easier to make changes or add new features without introducing bugs or breaking existing functionality. Using reliable design patterns also helps improve code quality, reduce complexity, and increase reusability.

Invest in unit testing and integration testing

Investing in unit and integration testing is great for time management as it reduces the time it takes to code and deploy software. It also strengthens the SRE processes set up at the organization significantly. Not only does better testing lead to better-quality apps or software, but it also helps newly onboarded developers build more confidence in their work. By thoroughly testing lines of code before it is released, developers can catch errors early on and prevent them from turning into bigger issues down the road.

Unit testing involves testing individual components of software to ensure they work as intended. Integration testing, on the other hand, involves testing how these components work together in a larger system. By investing in both unit and integration testing, developers can identify issues at every stage of the development process, leading to more stable and reliable software.

One of the key benefits of better testing is that changes take shorter, reducing the time it takes to deploy new features or updates. When developers know that their changes have been thoroughly tested and are less likely to cause issues, they can deploy them with more confidence and speed. This leads to faster release cycles and, ultimately, a better user experience.

Tracking the number of tests performed and the time it takes to complete them can provide insights into the effectiveness of the testing process. These insights can then be used to boost the adoption of best testing practices across the organization. 

Tips for strengthening tooling and SDLC infrastructure 

Here are some tips that can help SRE teams establish more reliable development process structures and make the SDLC smoother. 

Invest in better process tooling and automation 

Enhancing process tooling is a crucial aspect of improving developer productivity. Developers spend a significant amount of time multitasking or switching between different parts of the development process, such as coding, testing, and deploying. This can lead to a loss of focus and momentum. By reducing friction between these separate tasks, developers can focus on what they do best – writing code.

One effective way to reduce friction is by investing in automation techniques such as scaffolding and templating. Scaffolding is the process of generating boilerplate code or project structures automatically, while templating involves the creation of reusable code snippets. By using these automation techniques for project management, developers can reduce repetitive tasks and focus on more complex problems.

High-quality process automation tools can help teams optimize their development infrastructure for maximum efficiency and productivity. These tools can automate key development processes such as building, testing, and deploying, making development cycles faster and frictionless. Moreover, they can establish concrete process structures that can be followed across the organization, ensuring consistency and quality, which is an important goal for SRE teams.

Investing in infrastructural provisioning

Infrastructural provisioning involves providing developers access to the latest technologies and resources, such as the latest scaffolding tools or a custom AWS infrastructure. This allows them to work more efficiently and develop software products that meet the needs of customers and businesses alike.

The latest infrastructure is critical for developer productivity as it provides a range of benefits that can help developers work more efficiently. Some of them are:

  1. Easy integrations - enables developers to connect different tools and systems, reducing the time and effort required for manual integration. 
  2. Faster and more comprehensive testing - helps developers catch bugs and errors early on in the development cycle. 
  3. Automated performance report generation - high-end tools can help teams constantly monitor and improve the health of their development infrastructure. 

Investing in infrastructural provisioning is essential for ensuring better developer productivity. It can help development teams make their daily tasks and agile workflows quicker and more efficient. By providing developers with the necessary tools and resources, businesses can avoid costly delays and downtime when developers cannot access the resources they need. 

Additionally, having access to the latest technologies and resources can help developers work more efficiently, leading to faster product development and a quicker time to market.

Implementing better flaky test management 

Flaky tests are automated tests that fail or pass intermittently without any change in the code being tested. These tests can cause significant problems for software developers, as they waste valuable time and resources by producing inconsistent and unreliable results. However, with the right flaky test management strategies, developers can improve their productivity and streamline their testing processes.

One approach to managing flaky tests is to prioritize their resolution based on their impact on the development process. High-impact flaky tests that cause critical failures or slow down the development process should be given the highest priority. Developers can also use various tools and frameworks to identify and manage flaky tests, such as automated testing tools that identify and flag flaky tests or tools that enable developers to rerun failed tests automatically.

Another effective way to manage flaky tests is to involve the entire development team in identifying and addressing these issues. SRE teams can work together to identify common causes of flaky tests, such as environmental issues, network latency, or race conditions, and then collaborate on finding solutions to address these issues.

Implementing better code review management 

Effective code review management can improve developer productivity by catching issues early on in the development process and reducing the time it takes to fix them. 

One of the most significant challenges in code review management is ensuring that each piece of code is reviewed on time. This can be difficult when dealing with a large team of developers, each with its unique workload and priorities. One solution to this problem is using a tool that automatically assigns code reviews based on predefined rules. For example, you can use a tool that assigns code reviews to the programmer who wrote the code or to a specific team member with expertise in the relevant programming language and send them relevant notifications.

Another critical aspect of code review management is minimizing the time it takes to complete each review. The longer it takes to review code, the longer it takes to fix any discovered issues. To address this, it is important to have a well-defined process in place that ensures each code review is completed quickly and efficiently. This can include setting specific goals for PR cycle time, using templates to standardize review processes, and providing developers with clear guidance on what to look for during a review.

In addition to tooling and process improvements, it is also necessary to foster a culture of collaboration and continuous improvement within development teams. This can be achieved by providing regular feedback to developers on their code reviews, encouraging peer review, and rewarding team members who consistently produce high-quality code.

Standardizing the developer onboarding process 

Standardizing developer onboarding is a critical step toward improving SRE-centric developer productivity. A standardized onboarding process helps new developers quickly become productive team members by reducing the time and resources required to get them up to speed.

There are several ways to standardize developer onboarding. One way is to create a standard set of tools and technologies that all developers are required to use. This can include common coding standards, libraries, and frameworks. By standardizing the tools and technologies used across the development team, developers can more easily collaborate and share code, reducing duplication of effort and increasing productivity.

Another way to standardize onboarding is to provide structured tutorials for new developers. This can include classroom training, hands-on exercises, and mentorship from experienced developers. A structured training program can help new developers learn the skills they need to be productive.

It's also important to have a clear and well-documented development process that includes everything from how code is reviewed and tested to how bugs are tracked and resolved. Standardizing the development process helps developers work more efficiently and collaboratively, reducing the time and effort required to complete projects.

Finally, it's important to create a culture of continuous learning and improvement. This means providing ongoing training and development opportunities for all developers, regardless of their experience level. By fostering a culture of continuous learning, developers can stay current on the latest technologies, and best practices, leading to improved productivity and better-quality code.

Aiming for holistic developer productivity 

Tracking the quality and volume of the output produced by development teams is how SREs can track their software development productivity. Other information such as inter-process friction, the health of the software development architecture, and whether all the build tooling is cutting-edge and in line with the company’s development goals, can help team managers get a more holistic perspective on developer productivity. 

It is vital to aim for a holistic and sustainable productivity enhancement that doesn’t just translate to faster production by using shortcuts, but truly helps developers do their jobs well and complete them within working hours. 

In addition to monitoring output and addressing technical issues, SRE teams also need to focus on nurturing a positive work environment that encourages collaboration and professional growth each workday. Providing access to training, productivity hacks, mentorship, and resources for personal development can help developers stay engaged and motivated. 

Further, taking a proactive approach to addressing work-life balance and mental health can help prevent burnout and increase productivity. By prioritizing the well-being of their development teams, organizations can achieve long-term success and cultivate a culture of innovation and excellence.

Enhancing your developer productivity with Cortex 

Are you tired of inefficient workflows and development process bottlenecks holding back your software teams? Enhance your developer productivity with Cortex. 

Our cutting-edge visibility tools enable you to track and improve engineering productivity metrics, providing complete operational visibility and automating key aspects of the process. We make it easy to track all development processes and provide instant reporting and customized visibility dashboards.

By streamlining workflows and reducing development time, Cortex empowers SRE teams to produce desired business outcomes through their projects. 

Visit us today to adopt the best industry practices and create a culture of reliable and efficient software development productivity.

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