What is Jellyfish?
Jellyfish is one of the most popular engineering management platforms, offering comprehensive insights into engineering organizations, their tasks, and operational processes. Engineering management platforms aggregate and analyze metrics from various tools and systems that enable the software delivery process and development lifecycle. Jellyfish and other engineering management platforms aim to connect key development processes and decisions to overarching business goals.
Business leaders looking to quantify the productivity of their engineering team are able to get meaningful metrics from Jellyfish, such as time allocation. Through integrations with systems like Jira and Git, Jellyfish generates virtual time cards that detail the various tasks engineers are engaged in, providing insights into the time they dedicate to each activity. Users can see how many full-time engineers spend time each month on roadmap work versus support, infrastructure, or unplanned work.
In the case of engineering managers, Jellyfish can enable them to identify workflow problems and improve time management with a data-driven approach. For example, metrics could indicate uneven workflow distribution, resulting in bottlenecks for certain teams or decreasing velocity trends that require reallocation of resources towards addressing technical debt. Jellyfish provides support for initiatives around team structure changes, tooling evaluations, automation investments, and more.
How Jellyfish Falls Short as a Developer Productivity Solution
Despite its popularity and utility, there are some ways in which Jellyfish doesn’t quite hit the mark. Customers have reported some of the following issues with the engineering management platform.
- Poor UX: Learning to navigate the user interface can have a steep learning curve and be difficult. For example, some metrics, like sprint insights, are buried or difficult to find. In some cases, it may take users a long time to create the custom configurations to get data that’s meaningful to them.
- Rigid constructs: Jellyfish tends to be opinionated, which may be useful for some users looking for faster time to value, but if you have a specific, complex, or unusual use case, this trade-off in flexibility may not be appropriate for your team. Jellyfish also lacks an API to pull out the metrics and use them for analysis in other systems, further limiting how the data can be used.
- Issues with setup: Jellyfish provides a number of integrations, however, some users have reported issues with integrations with a few different services, such as Okta and Jira. The initial setup of the platform may take some users a while.
- Metrics without context: Jellyfish provides a lot of information about the historical trends and current state of an engineering organization, but it’s not always clear what to do with that information. Metrics are only useful when they lead to actionable insights and should be used to drive change in outcomes. With any engineering management system, there is sometimes a tendency to fixate on metrics as a way to compare and measure individual performance. When the focus moves to improving metrics and hitting targets instead of focusing on the outcomes and code quality, engineers may feel scrutinized and unfairly evaluated. Learn more about the importance of contextualizing metrics in this article.
Engineering Management Platforms vs Internal Developer Portals
As mentioned, engineering management platforms collect and analyze data to provide metrics around the development process, like code review metrics, pull request metrics, and cycle time analysis. While these platforms play a role in enhancing the development workflow, they typically do not directly address service health or metrics related to the operational aspects of deployed services.
Internal developer portals (IDP), on the other hand, serve as a centralized hub within an organization that provides tools, resources, and services to streamline and enhance the development workflow for software engineers and development teams. They provide metrics and analysis like engineering platforms, but IDPs like Cortex go far beyond that. They serve as a one-stop-shop for developers, offering a unified interface to access various tools, like automated service provisioning and dependency management, necessary for the software development lifecycle. In addition to measuring developer productivity, IDPs also improve productivity and developer experience by reducing friction in managing services and infrastructure. You can learn more about IDPs here.
Seven Alternative Solutions to Jellyfish for Engineering Management and Developer Productivity
Depending on your specific needs, there are a number of alternatives to Jellyfish to consider for measuring and improving your developer productivity. When comparing different tools that you may want to use, have a sense of which metrics are important to your engineering teams and organization to make sure the products you integrate measure and report those metrics to you in meaningful ways. When looking for metrics that drive change, top platforms will highlight outcome-oriented metrics like DORA. If you’re unsure which metrics you want to focus on, check out our piece on engineering metrics. There’s not a one-size-fits-all solution, so explore the different options to see which product or combination of products can serve you best.
Cortex is an internal developer portal that acts as an active system of record—driving improvement to both software health and developer productivity through 50+ integrations across all of your existing tools. With always up-to-date info from your Cloud, git, identity, security, and ticketing solutions, teams can better assess and set goals for things like software maturity, production readiness, compliance alignment, operational efficiency, and more. Importantly, these insights bring critical depth to productivity metrics now captured by Cortex's Engineering Intelligence solution—a first for Internal Developer Portals.
But unlike other metric aggregates, Engineering Intelligence brings context to productivity analysis by enabling leaders to directly compare things like PR size and open to close rate to custom measures of software health, production readiness, security state, and more. In this way leaders can track how improvement to software health impacts productivity, and set goals for both. To make metrics even more actionable, users can bring targets into dynamic Scorecards and Initiatives to drive time-boxed improvement in productivity right alongside (and often as a result of) improvements to software health. For more on how to think about developer productivity, check out this on-demand webinar.
LinearB positions itself as another metrics-driven platform, combining visibility and automation to enable operational efficiency and aligning investments. The product is easy to set up and administer, and users get a dedicated success manager that helps them customize and learn the system, making the platform useful quickly. LinearB focuses on relevant and comprehensive metrics like the DORA metrics, and it has clear and intuitive dashboards.
Compared to some of its competitors, LinearB lacks some more contextual insights for guiding future actions. Its set of integrations out of the box is more narrow, primarily catering to core developer tools like Jira, GitHub, and Jenkins. Depending on your technology stack, this limitation may pose a challenge. The paid version starts at $588 per contributor per year, a little higher than some of the other options on this list.
Pluralsight Flow is an engineering analytics platform that aims to help teams understand and improve their development workflow. It offers visibility into metrics for members across the organization, including CapEx data reports for finance teams. However, some metrics lack transparency into how they are calculated, which may not work for some teams.
The platform has features to promote collaboration and teamwork, allowing for comments and feedback on tasks to help teams stay aligned. Features like Team Health help managers facilitate discussions about individual contributor performance and locate high-performers that may have been overlooked. However, as with any tool focusing on an engineer’s quantitative output, it’s possible to misrepresent their contributions and output without proper context. Pricing starts at $456 annually for a contributor.
Code Climate Velocity offers valuable visibility into code repository activity, using pull requests as the unit of work for measuring. The tool is generally easy to use and adopt, and has a responsive support team. Velocity provides views that enable the comparison of team members against company benchmarks, enabling individuals to optimize their contributions and allowing management to get insights into the individual contributor level. However, some of these views may make developers feel like they’re being watched. It’s a great tool for managers, but limited documentation and some problems with integrations might cause issues during implementation.
Allstacks is an engineering management platform that emphasizes forecasting by analyzing software development life cycle data for projected outcomes and generating insightful reports. One standout feature of Allstacks is its commitment to transparency, offering users the powerful capability to delve into the underlying data behind metrics and charts.
Some users report delays in data retrieval from sources, which may be a problem for you if you require more real-time data. Setting up new users, associating them with applications and teams, and managing ongoing employee changes can be a somewhat manual and cumbersome process. Allstacks offers a free version, and for users opting for the paid version, pricing begins at $400 per year for a contributor.
Swarmia stands out as a metrics tracking platform with a strong focus on DORA and SPACE metrics. In particular, Swarmia receives praise for its user-friendly setup, its CI (Continuous Integration) insights, and Slackbot integration. Swarmia's commitment to clear documentation and solid customer support makes it easy for users to set up and continue gaining value from the product.
As a relatively newer platform, Swarmia may be best for small businesses. It has limitations when it comes to aggregating data across multiple teams, making it less suitable for larger organizations. Swarmia offers clear pricing models based on the number of developers in the organization, starting at $240 per developer per year for the lite version. Despite its strengths, users should be aware of the platform's limited integrations compared to more established alternatives.
Waydev is an engineering management platform that boasts easy setup and well-designed dashboards. It integrates across various productivity platforms like Git providers, calendars, and popular chat platforms like Slack and Teams to create a comprehensive view of your team’s productivity. Users can access executive reports for high-level insights or delve into individual-level reports. However, some metrics, such as lines of code committed, could potentially lead to contrived or harmful evaluations of engineers if misused.
In a landscape full of diverse options for engineering management tools, each with its unique strengths and drawbacks, choosing the right fit depends on the specific needs and priorities of the organization. Careful consideration of features, user experiences, and alignment with organizational goals will guide the selection process, ensuring a tool that not only measures but drives insight and meaningful change. For more information on how Cortex can fill the gap between measurement and impact, get in touch today.