Measuring Productivity: Managing Code Quality and Developer Output

Measuring Productivity: Managing Code Quality and Developer Output
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The rapid advancements in digital technology might lead you to think that code quality is also on an upward trajectory. However, the push to attain greater developer productivity has actually racked up a substantial technical debt.

The overwhelming push toward greater efficiency is, ironically, limiting potential future output. Essentially, developers are often tasked with productivity benchmarks that prioritize time-to-market and the introduction of new features, rather than code quality.

As a result, the standard of the code backing data and software has widely declined. In fact, the degradation of code quality is so great at this point that some estimates suggest 42% of developers’ time is wasted dealing with technical debt.

Code Quality: Good Code vs. Bad Code

Before delving into proper code maintenance, it’s important to define what constitutes “bad” or messy code first.

Quality, in terms of code, is a subjective metric. Developers may have specific attributes they look for in code to determine its efficacy for an organization. That said, quality code generally adheres to some specific guidelines.

Namely, code is typically measured by how efficient, clean, maintainable and well-documented it is. These metrics ensure the resulting software is highly performant and capable of standing the test of time.

Bad code, on the other hand, is typically prone to errors because it is messy, poorly documented, inefficient and/or difficult to interpret. These attributes not only make it difficult for developers to maintain their software, but also much harder to adapt or scale systems in response to evolving needs.

Code quality is affected by a developer’s skill, experience and the time constraints they’re up against. However, a project’s complexity will also impact the quality of the resulting code.

Code Quality and Technical Debt

Technical debt is the amalgamated consequences of bad code that crop up over time. As bad code accumulates, it acts as a debt, with the cost of reworking the software increasing over time.

Put simply, if a developer writes bad code due to an unrealistic productivity deadline, the results will cost interest later on. This cost comes not only in the form of reduced system performance, but also when companies try to scale up or make changes to components of the system.

With this way of thinking, a developer who gets a system up and running with bad code isn’t paying upfront. Instead, bad code incurs costs throughout the software’s lifetime — through egregious errors, inefficiencies and greatly slowed progress.

How Does Developer Output Affect Code Quality?

The truism that tends to apply to all lines of work — and certainly to creating code — is that quality and quantity are often a trade-off.

A developer only has so much to give, meaning that pushing up the quantity of work they must produce beyond their limit will lead to a reduction in the quality of the output. Once productivity benchmarks exceed what’s possible for a developer to produce at high quality, either the deadline won’t be met, or the work will see diminishing returns.

Time pressure is a prevalent issue — rushing to meet deadlines often leads to cutting corners and neglecting best practices. Plus, poorly defined coding standards (or lack of adherence to them) can lead to inconsistent and confusing code. Increasing productivity requirements can also limit the amount of time and resources that go toward critical functions like testing and review processes.

Managing Quality and Developer Productivity

For most companies, the key to improving code quality without a sharp decline in developer productivity is to strike the right balance in their workflows.

There’s no one-size-fits-all way of managing a team of developers; each company has a unique structure to consider. However, there are several ways to improve the clarity of workflows and streamline complex processes that you can implement in many situations.

First and foremost, adopting methodologies like Agile or Scrum can improve productivity. These frameworks break tasks into smaller, more manageable pieces, helping teams prioritize tasks effectively while preventing burnout. Managers should also be wary of developer burnout and avoid assigning an overwhelming amount of tasks to individuals or teams.

Clarifying coding standards can also help establish greater consistency across the codebase. This way, it’s easier to adapt or update the code down the line and avoid accruing technical debt.

Finally, establishing regular code reviews can help teams catch bugs or errors in the code early on to enforce higher quality standards. They provide an opportunity for individuals to step back and quality-check their work.

Developing Data and Software With a Tech Solutions Partner

It’s clear every company needs to find their own balance between pushing for productivity and making enough room for quality output — but knowing this is easier than actually doing it.

That said, a trusted consulting and technology services partner can provide vital expertise, resources and strategies tailored to their client’s needs. External experts like those at Growth Acceleration Partners (GAP) can help implement best practices while enforcing coding standards and performing rigorous quality checks.

GAP’s quality assurance practices can enhance immediate output while also building a foundation for sustainable long-term development. They can work with in-house development teams to customize solutions for the unique needs of each company.

Plus, GAP fills in any missing skill and knowledge gaps that may present as technical debt later down the line. This way, companies can ensure code quality and developer productivity reinforce each other — rather than being at odds.

Reach out to learn more about partnering with GAP.