Engineering Managers: Ensure That You Track These Three Metrics
Engineering managers put a lot of stress on the wrong numbers while measuring growth, and this obsession can sink their business strategy. However, the metrics you use as benchmarks may not always impact your end goal as an organization.
After leading software teams for around 20 years, Rob Zuber, CTO of CircleCI, says that the most insightful metrics fall into three categories:
- Velocity metrics
- Morale metrics
- Business metrics
Let’s take a look at these metrics in detail.
Engineering velocity metrics are powerful because they are result-based, measuring the speed and efficiency of your engineering processes. In addition, they evaluate the smoothness of your software delivery pipelines and are probably one of the most commonly tracked metrics.
- Engineering throughput is the rate at which a product or service is produced or processed. Moses Mendoza, former Head of Engineering at Zapproved, focuses primarily on measuring the throughput of his team to understand what’s holding them back.
- By periodically tracking the team’s throughput and comparing values, engineering managers can make data-driven decisions to manage their team’s work structure.
- Lead time refers to the time between the initiation and completion of a section in a process. Issues related to communication, tooling, or even pipeline quality can negatively affect the lead time.
- And thus, measuring lead time can help engineering managers identify the friction-causing pain points in their process.
- To reach your company targets, you need to understand how much work your team can get done in a sprint without compromising quality.
- Tom Forlini, CTO at Livestorm, says there are three smaller metrics within sprint velocity that engineering managers should take note of:
- The number of issues done vs. planned: This metric represents the number of issues assigned at the beginning, and the total completed estimates by the end of a sprint.
- The number of issues against story points: Story points don’t have a specific unit of their own. They are used when engineering managers don’t want to complicate things by using time as a unit of measurement. With this metric, you can assign a point of value for each story to ascertain the difficulty level related to a situation. For example, this difficulty could relate to aspects like complexity, effort, and the risk involved.
- Percentage of issues distributed depending on the type: While issues like code rewriting for a new feature and bug detection can count as two individual issues, one issue may take longer to resolve than the other. Therefore, it’s crucial to maintain a balance between different types of issues.
These metrics will allow you to evaluate and estimate team productivity and use your insights to plan your team’s workload.
Morale metrics give engineering managers a clear indication of the employees’ feelings towards the company and its management.
Unlike velocity metrics, morale metrics are not tangible. Unfortunately, that is probably why most engineering managers underestimate them.
It’s no secret that engineers who feel happy with their jobs are more likely to stay with the organization. Therefore, morale metrics are an essential factor in monitoring employee retention. Mendoza says that engineering managers should measure morale by having direct conversations with employees, conducting surveys, and asking team leaders to have honest one-on-one discussions to understand how their team members felt.
Every area of business has specific KPIs that need to be tracked, monitored, and analyzed. These metrics help the engineers in your team understand how their work is helping the organization move towards its goals.
And thus, tracking real-time business metrics is essential.
Here’s how you can get the most out of these metrics:
- Reviewing metrics at regular intervals will help your team internalize them, ensuring that team’s efforts align with company goals.
- Don’t overwhelm yourself by trying to track too many metrics at once. Instead, start small and focus on a handful of metrics that matter and scale over time.
- Try to understand how different metrics work together instead of just targeting individual metrics. For example, understanding how your engineering metrics impact your business metrics will help you see the bigger picture.
Engineering managers may feel like there are several metrics that are essential for their engineering team’s productivity. However, velocity, morale, and business metrics are the most important as they help make data-driven decisions, evaluate team performance, and enhance overall business strategy.
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