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Data-Driven Development: Tips and Tricks for Engineering Leaders

August 26th, 2022
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Data Driven Companies
Data-Driven Decisions
Developer productivity metrics
Development Analytics
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Data-driven solutions are changing the world and, with it, the business and operational landscapes. They enable executives to visualize output quality and quantity, extract insights that help optimize flows and contribute to better decision-making.  

The software engineering industry is no exception, as many companies aim for data-driven software development to shorten their path toward success, reducing unnecessary risk-taking and gut-feeling decision-making. 

At Waydev, we believe strongly in the power of data. By providing data-driven insights, we help companies ship faster and align engineering with business goals. More than 300 tech organizations using our solution support our premise. 

This article will teach you how to achieve data-driven software development processes, the benefits of making informed decisions, and some tips and tricks for managing your software development team effectively through data.

The concept of data-driven development

Data-driven development is a software engineering management approach that uses data to guide teams through the development process, enabling tech leaders to understand and assess how their work contributes to business success. 

To do so, engineering managers identify a series of KPIs and software engineering OKRs that they monitor to foster a continuous improvement mindset within their departments. 

Elements that define data-driven development

The three key pillars of an excellent data-driven development strategy are the data, the people, and the company’s overall vision. All these must come together perfectly to contribute to a successful strategy.  

The data: Choosing the Right Business KPIs

Successful engineering leaders know it is crucial to make decisions based on objective, clear metrics relevant to the team’s activity instead of taking subjective, gut-feeling actions. This is why they focus on the KPIs that help teams assess the value they bring to daily tasks and the company’s bottom line. 

KPIs like impact, performance, or commit risk measure effectiveness and quality. They are followed constantly, on an ongoing basis, and compared to benchmarks, allowing team members to identify patterns that can lead to roadblocks. To know more about setting KPIs and differentiating them from metrics, read our dedicated blog post.  

By following KPIs, professionals can align their work with the company’s long-term strategic objectives and make development a valuable organizational asset. 

The Goals: Setting the right OKRs 

OKRs, on the other hand, are more transitory since they have a clear purpose that spans over a shorter period, like a month, a quarter, or even a year. They aim to help organizations deliver, track progress, drive team engagement and ensure engineering goals align with the business ones. 

An OKR describes what the team wants to achieve and contains one objective and 2-5 key results. The key results enable tech leaders to measure the achievement extent of the objective. Establishing and following OKRs is a process we’ve detailed in this dedicated article.

To translate opportunities into action and achieve your OKRs, use reports like Waydev’s Project Timeline that give a good sense of how the work focus and volume change over time.

Waydev Project Timeline

The Metrics: Measuring the right ones

With DORA metrics, tech leaders may quickly assess their teams’ performance, identifying whether they are “low performers” to “elite performers.” This approach creates benchmarks that add objectivity to evaluations, standardizing the definition. 

Waydev helps you see and analyze DORA metrics on one dashboard while comparing them against industry benchmarks. 

The culture: Company vision

It is crucial to get your message across to C-level executives and get them to buy into your recommendations. However, when it comes to working with less technical executives, this endeavor can be challenging. 

The first step you have to take is to ensure you clearly understand the company’s vision and business objectives. This will help you decide on suitable KPIs and OKRs to monitor. 

The second step is ensuring you always have relevant information for the top business executives. For example, a sales executive will have a keen interest in budgets and costs, so successful tech leaders know where their budgets go and understand how resources are allocated. Visualizing financial costs helps them respond to queries, pinpoint cost sources and control the progress of key initiatives. 

The benefit is that business execs will be happy, and engineering managers will accelerate innovation and maximize business impact by adjusting budgets and resources according to the company’s vision and business priorities. 

The People: Positive behavioral metrics

Positive behavioral metrics help tech leaders understand what motivates teams to deliver or to carry on a project. By monitoring positive actions, tech leaders may assess and reinforce them, fostering an environment that supports good interaction and cooperation. 

With Waydev’s Review Collaboration feature, engineering managers have visibility over how teams work together and may effectively communicate the healthy tensions between speed and thoroughness in code review. 

What are the benefits of implementing data-driven software engineering?

The data-driven engineering approach offers access to valuable team information 

When they constantly collect and analyze data, engineering departments benefit from a clear view of their teams’ performance and project timelines. 

A platform like Waydev automatizes the process by monitoring engineers’ output directly from Git repositories without requiring manual input. Our solution offers complete visibility over processes, providing a constant stream of analytics that can be leveraged to assess team performance.

Data-driven development offers visibility into the bigger picture

A data-driven approach enables engineering departments to see and understand the bigger picture, revealing and showcasing how each team’s work contributes to the overall project’s success. Assessing the impact of their efforts helps team members feel acknowledged and motivated. 

The data-driven approach fosters development optimization

Engineering departments strive to shorten development timelines for a better time-to-market, enabling them to differentiate their products from the competition. 

A data-driven approach helps optimize the development process by offering all necessary insights to identify low-performing areas, solve challenges and deploy measures contributing to transformations and continuous improvement. 

Data-driven development fosters agility

In software engineering, a data-oriented mindset fosters agility, enabling teams to tackle and fix potential errors before they escalate and generate crises and operational disruptions. 

Data-driven programming analyzes an organization’s operational patterns, providing visibility into the work delivered and creating internal standards for performance and quality. This helps teams understand their work in a more complex setup, comparing it with past projects. 

The approach also ensures engineering leaders can better understand how they perform compared to their industries and see how they rank in terms of KPIs. Knowing where they stand may ensure they are always ahead of the curve. 

How to achieve data-driven development?

Choose Relevant Business KPIs

Finding the right metrics to monitor is crucial for data-driven programming. It is recommended that tech leaders identify the KPIs that make sense from an engineering perspective and have business value. 

Some top-of-mind KPIs are technical ones, like mean-time-to-repair, velocity, and cycle time, as these are easier to understand and monitor and translate into actionable tasks with a significant business impact.

Waydev helps you measure Cycle Time from the first commit until production deployment, so you understand your organization’s development velocity.

The technical metrics are crucial in giving clear insights into your team’s performance and the value your development brings to businesses. What these metrics lack is data about the user experience or behavior.

Setting up user-KPIs is also a must for an organization to become data-driven across all areas. These metrics may include the cost per customer or the cost per feature. 

Understanding these metrics allows you to tailor budgets accordingly and deliver value cost-effectively. 

Quantify uncertainty

One factor that may affect software engineering projects’ performance is how the teams handle uncertainty.

Uncertainty is a natural part of any project that comes from several sources, such as the technology, the stakeholders, the team, and deliverables. 

If you want to achieve data-driven development, you have to be equipped to quantify uncertainty. Your best bet in achieving data quality is the metrics you choose to measure to assess anything outside the benchmarks or tolerance ranges.

The best way to reduce uncertainty is by opting for a data-driven Agile approach, solving all errors as you go, and never letting bugs linger. While there are many techniques for fixing bugs, one type of uncertainty tends to be the most frustrating for software development teams: unplanned work popping up mid-sprint.

Waydev’s solution reduces unplanned work by 21%, and our Executive Reports give CTOs a clear understanding of the costs behind unplanned work. 

Offer specialized guidance

Data can only generate value when it is analyzed, measured, and shared with the team. For this reason, the first step in achieving data-driven development is ensuring that your engineering team is up to date with the KPIs and OKRs meant to optimize their workflows. The second step great engineering managers take is mentoring. They make their mark on the project’s success, create strong bonds with the team, and align development to the company’s business strategy. 

Waydev’s Throughput Report keeps you in the loop with your teams’ output, enabling you to spot irregularities and step in with the right mentoring strategies.

Use software development analytics tools 

Using data-driven analytics doesn’t have to be a daunting task that adds things to the developers’ to-do lists. The days when engineers would have to fill in activity information manually are long gone. 

Data-driven Agile platforms like Waydev automatically pull data from Git repositories, ensuring that your engineering team members may focus on things where they make a difference. Our platform integrates throughput information to deliver reports that may be used for daily stand-ups, one-to-ones, code reviews, and executive reports. 

How we see data-driven programming at Waydev

We strongly believe that a data-driven approach to programming enables enterprises to enhance software development productivity and promote healthy workflows that no longer rely on guesswork.

By understanding work patterns and spotting blockages or irregularities using factual data, engineering leaders can isolate what’s not working and replicate successful models. The only way to improve something is by measuring it. In this day and age, when data is everywhere and can be easily accessed, a platform that aggregates only the most valuable pieces of data is a must-have for any organization that aims for greater efficiency.

Contact us and discover how a data-driven approach to software engineering can benefit your team and your projects. 

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Waydev's Playbook for data-driven engineering leaders.

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