Measuring the Impact of Developer Experience

What impact does DevEx have on developers, teams, and organizations?

Developer Experience (DevEx)

Over the last two years, I have been investigating developer experience – that is, how developers experience their work and how that influences outcomes such as productivity, code quality, or retention.

In our first in-depth study, we look at which factors influence developer experience. We found 25 factors that developers regularly described when they talked about developer experience and grouped them into four categories:

  • Development and release
  • Product management
  • Collaboration and culture
  • Developer flow and fulfillment

We also identified how developer experience can be improved and which strategies developers have to improve it, as well as which challenges and barriers they face when they try to improve DevX.

Developers started to talk about DevEx

Our research was published in mid-2022 (you can download the full paper here), and since then, a lot of people in the industry have started to talk about developer experience. This is awesome!

Developers all around the world could relate to our findings and echoed that they indeed need good developer experience to be productive and ship high-quality code. Developers know that they need time to focus and do deep work. They know about flow state and how fast code review turnaround times are a game changer.

DevEx? No buy-in from management

But once again, business folks were too far away from programming to understand the importance of DevEx. The fact is that many companies are only willing to spend money on DevEx during “good“ times — when we have too much time, too much money, and no other priorities. Well, those times do not exist, especially not with a bad DevEx.

When talking to engineering leaders, we realized that what is missing is data that quantifies the impact of DevEx. That’s why we have worked on getting this data over the last year. Data that shows the impact of DevEx on productivity, code quality, retention, innovation – well, all the outcomes that business cares about.

Hard numbers to convince business

The research goal was to quantify DevEx’s impact on developers, teams, and organizations. The picture below highlights how improvements to the flow state of devs, their cognitive load, and the feedback loops they encounter have a direct and quantifiable impact. You can read the complete research article on the DevEx on business outcomes here.

Code Review Related DevX

Another interesting outcome of this study is that we could show that a smooth code review process impacts productivity, retention, and learning. As you see in the quote below, code reviews also impact innovation.

A fast code review turnaround time leads to a 20% increase in innovation.

If we think about it, it makes sense. Innovation suffers if we have to wait a long time to get feedback on our work or if releasing new features is painful.

How to Improve Code Review Turnaround Times

But which strategies help to increase turn-around times? Well, that depends on the underlying root cause for the slow feedback. Yet, a good first step to reduce the code review turnaround time is to implement those 30 code review best practices.

How to measure developer experience?

There are many ways to get insights into the developer experience of your team or company. The most common ones are through informal discussions with teammates (think one-on-one meetings, group meetings, coffee chats, or retrospectives). You can also use more structured approaches such as surveys, interviews or observations. Another source of information can come from your systems. You can use log data, commit data, information from test runs or pipeline runs. All that can enrich your understanding of your current developer experience and also help you identify bottlenecks, friction points and problems. For a step-by-step guide on how to design developer experience survey have a look here.

Dr. Michaela Greiler

I make code reviews your superpower.

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