Do business leaders know how to evaluate developer success?

A new survey commissioned by CircleCI shows that a significant portion of business leaders are using outdated metrics to measure the performance of their software development teams.
Written by Stephanie Condon, Senior Writer

Most business leaders call their software development teams a critical part of their success, a new survey commissioned by CircleCI shows. At the same time, a significant portion of those business leaders are using outdated metrics to measure their software engineering teams. 

Given the value of these teams, using the wrong metrics could come at a significant cost, CircleCI suggests. 

As many as three out of five respondents (60 percent) predicted they could achieve a 50 or more percent increase with improved software delivery. Based on the estimates of all respondents, improvements could be worth a mean revenue increase of as much as 40.8 percent. Given the reported sales of the businesses surveyed, that would equate to $126 million per company per year left on the table.

"The last 18 months have made the need for aligning business leaders and software teams more urgent than ever," the report concludes. "Understanding the value you are getting out of teams, focusing on strong alignment of goals and priorities, and making it very easy for software developers to do their best work is more important than ever."

The report surveyed more than 2,000 business leaders in the US and the UK across 12 industries. As many as 97 percent of respondents said at least some of the success of their business within the next year relies on the ability of their software teams. Sixty-two percent said their software teams' ability "matters a lot" or is "critical." 


On top of that, the overwhelming majority, 89 percent, thought they had a good understanding of how to measure the performance of their engineering teams and software development. 

However, many are still measuring delivery using outdated metrics. Forty percent of respondents said they are measuring by lines of code written, while 37 percent are using story points (approximations of the amount of time and energy required to complete a task). 

Respondents reported using more useful metrics, such as throughput and mean time to recovery, at similar rates. 

"This shows that there is a real need for clarity and distinction between these older metrics and the more modern ones that have superseded them," the report says. 

By vertical, IT and telecommunications leaders most frequently reported using lines of code as a metric (45 percent said they do). Healthcare, at 44 percent, was also high on the list. At the other end of the scale, just 16 percent of those working in travel and transport use this old metric. Instead, this industry tends to rely heavily on using success rate as a primary measure, at 60 percent. 

Along with using proper metrics to measure progress, the CircleCI report suggests other steps business leaders should take to ensure that software delivery teams contribute to a company's success, such as aligning on goals and outcomes and shortening feedback loops.

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