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Critical developer experience metrics and how to track them

Developer experience metrics can help you better understand your dev cycle. Here are seven critical metrics to monitor and how to track them.

Apr 15, 2024 • 10 Minute Read

An illustration depicting developer experience
  • Software Development
  • Developer Experience
  • Team Development

Developer experience metrics combine tools, processes, and culture that contribute to developer satisfaction and productivity. With a competitive job market that can attract talent away from your organization, leaders must prioritize developer experience to ensure their teams are satisfied, engaged, and have what they need to thrive.

Developer experience is positive for all; it helps engineers flourish and allows businesses to increase productivity and code quality. We'll touch on analyzing and improving the developer experience with proven strategies.

By utilizing developer metrics, businesses can better understand the development journey and adjust for increased efficiency and a more positive working experience. We'll cover the key developer experience metrics to begin monitoring alongside your existing metrics.

What are developer experience (DX) metrics?

Developer experience (DX) is the sum of all the tools, processes, technology, and culture that influence how developers tackle their projects. Developer experience metrics drill down on these various aspects of day-to-day work to determine where improvements are needed. Metrics can be split into two types:

  • Quantitative metrics focus on hard data for analysis —for example, measuring the average response time to a support ticket.

  • Qualitative metrics focus on subjective assessments—for example, measuring overall developer satisfaction.

Tracking metrics is really just the beginning of improving your team's overall developer experience. According to Dr. Cat Hicks, VP of research insights at Pluralsight, "In healthy metrics use, measurement and tracking can be seen as the start of a conversation rather than the entire conversation." 

Tools like Pluralsight Flow are vital in helping engineering leaders turn these metrics into actionable insights to improve developer productivity and satisfaction. 

Key developer experience metrics to measure

We've highlighted seven key developer experience metrics you should begin with to improve your process. These metrics enable your team to monitor data points such as how much rework occurs and the number of days spent working on a task.

With proper monitoring and adjustments, these metrics, or software development KPIs, can lead to a more efficient workplace.

1. Lead time for changes (LTFC)

Lead time for changes (LTFC) refers to the time it takes to receive and implement software change requests; this metric can be vital in understanding developer productivity and efficiency. 

Shorter LTFC metrics showcase a team that is faster to respond, while a more extended time could indicate software development inefficiencies. If a development team receives a feature request, you can measure LTFC  from the moment they log the request to when they deploy the solution.

2. Impact

Impact is a measure of change within your organization. You can use impact to better gauge how much change has occurred in order to implement a specific task or occurrence. For example, if a senior team member with extensive knowledge of the codebase leaves, you can track impact to understand how that loss affects the rest of the team. 

If you see a spike in impact, take a deeper look at your code review process to ensure senior developers are paired with more junior developers to ensure valuable codebase knowledge is shared across the team.

3. Rework

Rework examines code deleted or rewritten within 30 days of being written. This may be due to fixing issues, addressing bugs, or other usability problems. By monitoring rework time, teams can identify areas within the software development process that need improvement. A high rework rate (above 15%) may indicate that you need more resources during the Q&A phase.

If a software development team deploys a new feature and users find issues with the release, the team needs to develop and deploy a fix—such a scenario increases rework time and decreases overall productivity.

4. Coding days

Coding days measure the days when a developer commits code; it’s an overview of how often team members contribute to a project. By understanding coding days, you can track progress and identify inefficiencies that may cause delays. 

It’s typical for a contributor to commit code anywhere from two to four days a week, depending on their contributor level. If your team is underdelivering, consider what might be blocking their progress within the development cycle, such as a recent API change or tool update.

5. Cycle time

Cycle time is a metric that examines the time it takes to complete a software development cycle or ticket. Time begins when a development team handles the first task and is marked as complete when the cycle process ends. 

A shorter cycle time indicates increased efficiency; if it’s routinely long, the team can analyze the part of the development cycle that causes delays. If a team observes cycle time increasing, it may point to a growing issue, such as large batch sizes.

Identifying the problem, resolving it, and witnessing decreased cycle time signals a robust problem-solving approach, allowing you to get to market and address customer concerns faster.

6. Time to merge

The time to merge metric monitors the time developers take to merge changes into the main code repository, including reviewing and approval processes. A shorter time to merge indicates a faster response time and better team collaboration. Long merge processes suggest the code review process may be inefficient.

If a developer submits a pull request that takes an abnormally long time to merge, it’s worth examining the review and approval process. Ensuring effective team communication is an elemental part of the code review process.

7. Velocity

The velocity metric examines how much work a development team delivers during a sprint. Velocity is viewed over a set period, providing insight into a development team's efficiency. By surveying velocity, development leaders can predict timelines and adjust processes to improve overall code production.

Let’s say a team within an Agile development environment must deploy a set number of features in the year (our set period). If the team delivers an average of 14 new features over multiple sprints, the velocity would be 14.

How to analyze and improve developer experience

While monitoring DX metrics is a good starting point, engineering leaders need to do more to improve their team's software development process. Teams must know how to analyze and improve the developer experience.

We'll explore how you can interpret the data, identify improvement opportunities, and implement changes with ongoing monitoring. 

Interpret the data

Once an organization collects data, the team needs to put it into context, and the first step is interpretation. When examining a metric, begin by asking yourself: What problem am I trying to solve? If you began monitoring LTFC, for instance, you likely wanted to decrease the time it takes to receive and implement software requests. Start with the problem you want to solve and work backward to choose the right metrics to focus on.

Large amounts of data help identify small points of inefficiency, but they can be challenging to manage. Some software development teams will utilize developer experience tools like Pluralsight Flow to improve their overall experience. Using Flow, teams can connect platforms and services they already use, such as GitHub, Jira, and ADO, unifying metrics in a single location for more straightforward interpretation.

Identify areas for improvement

Once you’ve interpreted and understood the data, decision-makers can begin identifying areas for improvement. Continuing with the example of monitoring LTFC to decrease implementation time, the next step would be identifying patterns that push the metric in the opposite direction, such as poorly defined requirements. Once teams identify an area for improvement, they can begin planning and implementing changes to adjust course.

Implement changes

The implementation phase is when all the data you've collected and the areas of improvement you've identified have a chance to make a difference. Once you've decided how to approach the tactic, you can begin implementation. Teams may want to test the waters by slowly implementing a solution across a few core teams to see if it’s practical before deploying across the entire organization to help reduce risk.

Unsure what changes to implement within your organization first? We recommend looking at our Developer Thriving White Paper, created by our Dev Success Lab. You can learn how to use the Developer Thriving framework and the importance of healthy metrics to drive productivity within your team.

Monitor continuously

Measuring developer experience is more than just a one-and-done strategy. For a truly optimized experience, monitoring should be continuous. That way, teams can understand whether newly implemented strategies are effective while catching any potential problems.

A platform like Pluralsight Flow can assist with ongoing monitoring and transform your team. For example, the team at Lightspeed partnered with Pluralsight Flow and saw their time to merge decrease by 93.2% and their overall daily commits rise by 53.8%.

5 developer experience best practices

Establishing a healthy developer experience shouldn't be challenging or intimidating. These four best practices can help your organization with its journey to a healthier, more productive developer environment:

  • Streamline your development environment: Focus on providing your developers with well-documented, consistent environments. Consider automating setup processes through containerization tools like Docker to reduce inconsistencies when developing and testing.
  • Equip your developers with reliable tools: Ensure tools provided to developers are well-integrated into your processes and allow fast deployment. Such tools include integrated development environments (IDEs), deployment automation, debuggers, and version control systems.
  • Fine-tune your onboarding process: A robust onboarding process sets developers up for success from day one. Make sure devs have access to all the hardware and software they need, schedule onboarding training, and set them up with a mentor to help shorten ramp times. 
  • Offer visibility into how work relates to the bigger picture: Another important aspect of the developer experience is ensuring teams have proper visibility into how their work relates to larger organizational goals. This type of visibility can help motivate teams and raise developers’ confidence, knowing leadership sees and values their contributions.
  • Ask for feedback: Developer satisfaction surveys are vital to understanding how developers rate their current experience. These surveys help leadership pinpoint where to make improvements and build trust with their teams. Aim to conduct regular surveys and ensure they take less than 30 minutes to complete.

Improve your DX metrics with Pluralsight Flow

Addressing developer experience metrics leads to increased developer satisfaction and productivity through better understanding. Luckily, you don’t have to measure DX metrics on your own. Pluralsight Flow can help you gain insights into metrics and better align with developers to meet company goals. 

Organizations can improve DevOps performance by implementing metrics with Flow signals, such as git tags and ticket filters. With the Pluralsight Developer Success Lab, you can learn how to create a thriving developer team.

Flow Transformation Team

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Our engineering transformation experts are here to help you and your team embrace The Flow transformation process by establishing a foundation, demonstrating impact, and strategically growing your team in the most effective and efficient way possible.

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