Business leaders’ ignorance of software development is costing them dearly

If you needed proof of the persistent disconnection between business and IT departments, the data is available. We often associate disconnection with a failure to communicate changing business needs, but business leaders also miss the point when it comes to assessing the productivity or performance of their software teams. Almost nine in ten executives (89%) in a recent survey think they can accurately measure the performance of software engineering teams, but in reality, they don’t have a clue what’s going on. For starters, many still view the produced lines of code as an accurate measure of the productivity of the software team – a very flawed means of measurement.

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Photo: Joe McKendrick

These are among the lessons of a recent investigation of 2,013 Executives, published by CircleCI, which estimates that companies lose up to $ 126 million a year because executives don’t understand the essence of developer productivity. At least 40% of business leaders measure the performance of their teams using metrics such as lines of code and story points, which are units of measure that estimate the effort required to complete a software project. Neither accurately proves the ROI of engineering results, the survey authors point out. “Both measures have some niche utility but are ineffective in measuring the success and impact of a software team on the business.”

Eighty percent of executives say the capabilities of their software engineers are critical to their business today. More than a third, 36%, say they could increase their revenue significantly (by more than 50%) through efficient software delivery. “In total, the executives we interviewed estimate that a potential increase of $ 126 million per business per year could be achieved by strengthening the critical relationship between business and technology,” say the authors. “Yet without a thorough understanding of the ability of engineering teams to deliver results and reach their full potential, this revenue increase will remain elusive for many.”

This lack of understanding of software operations has many implications, especially since only a third of the companies surveyed are run by executives with some IT experience on their CVs. “Executives of digitally driven companies often struggle to explain how software engineering workforce and tooling costs return to their bottom line,” the researchers note. “Without that understanding, seemingly straightforward questions like ‘should we hire more developers? Are difficult to answer. ”

The survey showed how much work is still needed to fill these gaps. For example, DevOps and Continuous Integration / Continuous Deployment are still in their infancy. Right now, 30% plan to prioritize DevOps, and only 15% will be putting CI / CD into practice for the first time.

The report emphasizes the importance of aligning with goals and outcomes, shortening feedback loops, and using appropriate metrics as methods to bridge these critical gaps between business leaders and their development teams. The authors of the report recommend service level objectives (SLO), which are “simple numeric metrics that can provide business context to a particular part of your output, and typically include things like error rates, uptime, and recovery time.” Organizations that always base activity metrics on core outcomes such as lines of code are advised to “think about your software delivery pipeline, set a baseline, and set goals to optimize your capacity.” to ship quickly, get customer feedback and iterate – providing more chances for
Success.”

Results matter, say the report’s authors. Measuring results is essential, “both for engineering team leaders to own the story of their impact on the business, and for business leaders to make precise judgments about where and how to invest in engineering teams The gold standard is understanding how changes in software impact business performance: has this new feature increased sales? shutdown reduced churn rates? Were customers of the new version more likely to expand their usage? Yet linking the work of the software team to the impact on the business can be difficult , and the challenge of defining good outcome measures is that they can be very individual depending on the needs and goals of each organization. ”


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