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How Organizations can Measure Productivity to Drive Engineering Success

June 08, 2023

Authors: Carol Lee, PhD, Morgan Ramsey & Cat Hicks, PhD | Read time: ~ 19 mins 

Defining developer productivity is both challenging and top-of-mind for engineering leaders. We propose differentiating between measures of production, productivity, and performance as an important step for engineering organizations, and one that helps to suggest next steps for improving how we measure the success of engineering teams.

In this case study, we explore how this Three Layer Productivity Framework was used by 16 software engineers at a Software Engineering-focused conference to rank measures of success, first in their organizations’ current practice and second in their individual beliefs about the best ways to measure engineering success. Our participants represented various backgrounds, including engineering leaders and managers as well as individual contributors. Figure 1 shows which layers engineers wanted their organizations to increase or decrease in their evaluation of engineering work.

High level findings:

  • Overall, the majority of participants preferred organizations to 1) continue their prioritized focus on performance layer metrics,  2) increase the focus on productivity metrics and 3) decrease their focus on production metrics. 

  • When asked about their organization’s current metrics, while all roles reported a current focus on performance metrics, only ICs reported a strong focus on production metrics. 

  • When asked about metrics they would prefer, all roles preferred more performance metrics but only leaders and ICs also wanted productivity metrics. 

  • While all participants were aligned on performance metrics being a top preference, there was misalignment on which specific metrics are used. 


  • Organizations should continue measurement using performance metrics

  • Organizations should consider an increased focus on productivity metrics

  • Organizations should consider  a decreased focus on production metrics

Three Layer Productivity Framework with Engineer's Preferences

Fig 1. Three Layer Productivity Framework and preferences for increasing/decreasing its emphasis inside of engineering organizations