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What is Developer Velocity and Why It Matters
Published:Mar 01, 2022

What is Developer Velocity and Why It Matters

If you want your development team to work efficiently and focus on improving business performance, you need to create an environment that fosters innovation while removing friction from the development lifecycle.

We call this capability “developer velocity.”

Let’s unpack this fancy term. Read on to find out what it means, why it’s important, and what you can do to improve your team’s developer velocity.

What Is Developer Velocity?

Developer velocity reflects how much work a developer can complete in a specific timeframe.

For example, it can be measured as the sum of all effort points (e.g., engineer hours, story points, user stories) required to build the final feature in one sprint. Partially completed or incomplete work units aren’t factored into the velocity measurement.

Developer velocity provides teams with a single metric to measure how effective they’re in shipping products. Teams can determine if their velocity has improved by comparing work of similar complexity completed in previous periods.

By measuring the effort spent on a final product aligned with business KPIs, developer velocity helps teams focus on improving business performance through software development.

Factors Impacting Developer Velocity

Many factors can influence how fast a development team can build products to meet business objectives. Here are the most common hurdles that can dampen developer velocity:

  • A codebase that doesn’t support continuous integration, testing, and deployment.
  • Context-switching between feature development and operational tasks.
  • Constant distractions keep developers from doing deep and innovative work.
  • Lack of investment in tools, processes, and training to support innovation.
  • Complex organizational structure that challenges coordination among teams.

Why Is Developer Velocity Important?

Measuring developer velocity helps you identify where you can achieve efficiency gains within the software development lifecycle. It highlights how you can apply innovation to improve the customer experience and drive revenue.

Improving developer velocity helps you shorten time to market and respond quickly to market changes, so you can meet customer demands and drive profits. It also minimizes the risks associated with implementing new features while allowing you to sharpen your competitive edge through experimentation.

Moreover, developer velocity informs how you can modernize and automate the development process. It enhances collaboration and removes barriers that hinder innovation. It can also extend the value of software investments and demonstrate IT ROI.

Higher developer velocity also improves developer satisfaction and retention because they can focus their time and effort on ideating, innovating, and building great products.

How To Improve Developer Velocity

To improve your team’s developer velocity, you must address these four factors: tools, culture, product management, and technical debt. Here’s how:

Empower Developers with the Right Tools

Best-in-class tools are the foundation of developer velocity. Organizations that offer robust tools for planning, development, collaboration, and continuous integration and delivery are 65% more innovative than their peers.

Allow developers a certain degree of choice but restrict ad hoc tools to avoid redundancies and inefficiencies. Invest in low-code or no-code platforms, so business users (citizen developers) can build applications and free up developers to focus on challenging tasks.

tools for improving developer velocity

Build a Culture that Fosters Experimentation

Create a safe environment where software teams can experiment, fail, and learn to achieve better results. Encourage knowledge sharing and continuous improvement while permitting and promoting risk-taking in the pursuit of innovative problem-solving.

Invest in systems and capabilities that can absorb and minimize the cost of failures. These include controlled releases, feature flags, and automated rollbacks. Also, conduct retrospectives so teams can reflect constructively on what worked and what didn’t.

Implement test-driven development (TDD), static code analysis, and a shift-left approach to empower developers to find and fix problems early. These methods enable developers to move faster, become more agile, shorten iterations, and create better quality products.

5 steps of test driven development

Create an Integrated Product Management Function

Go beyond delivering products on time and on budget. You must ensure that the team is building the right products in the right way to create the best customer experience and align with business priorities.

Address these six aspects of product management: customer experience, strategic skills, business acumen, technical skills, leadership skills, and organizational enablers (e.g., strategic prioritization, funding, and the adoption of product telemetry.)

Manage Technical Debt

Technical debt hampers developer velocity. Every time a development team runs into issues caused by outdated infrastructure or changes made in the past without proper planning or documentation, they have to spend time and effort fixing the bugs.

Technical debts not only derail the development process. They also cause frustration that can lower motivation and impact morale. You can reduce technical debt by dedicating effort to rebuilding an old codebase or adopting new tools and automation software to improve developer velocity.

how to keep technical debt under control

How To Apply the Concept of Developer Velocity

So how does the concept of developer velocity work when the rubber meets the road? Here are a few use cases:

Reduce Operational Friction

Legacy technology that doesn’t integrate with the current tech stack and support automation can create friction, slowing down development and innovation. Developers equipped with a robust toolset and up-to-date software architecture can see results sooner, iterate faster, and deploy features more frequently.

Transform Culture and Mindset

It can be challenging to change mindsets and cultural norms to promote innovation. The concept of developer velocity associates innovation to business outcomes and ROIs. As such, it’s easier to convince decision-makers to invest in new technologies, methodologies, and best practices to better manage product lifecycles.

Enable Organization-wide Innovation

The focus on customer experience and business outcomes promotes the creation of cross-functional developer teams and facilitates knowledge sharing. Meanwhile, the rise of the citizen developer shifts the burden off IT so developers can focus on building new functionalities that drive revenue and growth.

The Foundation For Improving Developer Velocity

Developer velocity, a function of effort and time, is inextricably linked to the process of scoping, estimating, and planning development work.

Team members must have the tools to manage their time effectively and remove time-wasters to improve efficiency in every step of the software development lifecycle.

If you don’t know how you’re spending your time, you won’t know if you’re focusing on the most impactful tasks or where operational friction is holding the team back from becoming more productive.

Time tracking software development and the ability to turn the data into actionable insights are central to effective planning and improving developer velocity.

So how do you track time as a team without adding friction and inefficiency (which is the Achilles heel of most time recording apps)?

You need a system that makes this process frictionless and seamless by tracking time inside the platforms developers work (e.g., Azure DevOps, GitHub) and associating the time with individual work items to gain granular insights.

7pace provides the data that teams need to understand and manage their performance. Our software development time tracker allows developers to manage their own productivity, improve their time management techniques, and track the impact of their work in real-time.

Try 7pace Timetracker to see how you can accurately track time and collect data to improve your team’s developer velocity and performance.

Free eBook

Rethinking Timekeeping for Developers:

Turning a Timesuck Into Time Well Spent

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