Maximize Developer Velocity and Unleash Innovation
Companies that optimize developer velocity significantly outperform organizations that do not by 4x - 5x. Additionally, they drive 60% more shareholder returns and have 20% higher operating margins.
That’s why it’s important to nail down developer velocity.
But it isn’t easy.
You need a culture that understands the value of developer velocity and enables your team to move quickly. To succeed, implement these 20 game-changing techniques to significantly increase your developers’ capabilities.
1. Plan Properly
Maximizing developer velocity requires a plan.
Your plan should clearly define the project, business goals, and how your team will accomplish them. It should also take into account current market conditions and developer trends.
The more specific, the better. Details reduce reworks.
With a clear plan, your team will know what to do, when to do it, and what comes next. This reduces confusion and slowdowns on your team.
Each team will have different developer velocities. This is normal.
Whatever you do, do not compare teams or have them compete against each. This doesn’t improve velocity. In fact, it can cause unnecessary stress and rivalry, creating a toxic work environment.
2. Map Out Processes
Mapping out processes helps you identify bottlenecks that reduce developer velocity.
Speak with your team before starting a project. Ask your developers to point out slow downs. And work with project managers to track developer velocity through these processes.
This will help you identify additional bottlenecks, inefficiencies, and redundancies that you can optimize or eliminate.
Once you've identified these bottlenecks, you can make more informed decisions about resource allocation, ensuring that you have the right people or tools in place to handle these problem areas.
3. Use Accurate Data
Collecting data on your team helps you measure your current velocity so you can streamline performance. It also helps your team quantify the impact of improvements on workflows.
Be careful with how you collect your data, though.
Asking your developers directly can lead to inflated predictions. For example, developers can say tasks take longer than they do to fake high developer velocity.
It can also drive developers to prioritize speed over quality. They’ll work faster (knocking out more tasks) but create more errors along the way.
Instead, focus on cycle time, iteration churn, and change failure rate.
That data will help you further identify bottlenecks, making it easier to streamline processes.
Additionally, your team can better allocate resources and use predictive analytics to make more informed decisions. This will reduce waste. And it’ll help your team anticipate future challenges and trends so they can respond proactively.
4. Invest in Your Team
Cutting-edge tools, technology, and a continuous learning environment can help your developers increase their velocity. Team-building exercises and open communication channels can also enhance productivity significantly by facilitating collaboration.
You also want to balance your teams.
Projects consist of numerous tasks with varying complexity. Having a range of skilled developers helps you delegate effectively. It also helps your developers learn from each other as they work on a project.
Higher developer velocity fuels job satisfaction and retention.
Developers thrive when they can innovate and build exceptional products. Giving your team the resources and experience they need to build expertise keeps them invested and excited for the work they do.
As a result, they can solve problems faster and improve output.
Conversely, micromanaging, excessive pressure, and low morale lead to decreased productivity and high turnover rates.
All of which will negatively impact your developer velocity.
5. Create a Safe Workspace
According to the survey by Stack Overflow, nearly 10% of developers deal with anxiety. Overall, 32.5% had mental health concerns or considerations.
Developers more freely share ideas and take calculated risks that lead to innovation when they feel safe and supported.
More so, helping reduce the level of anxiety, stress, frustration, and other negative emotions that can negatively impact developer performance goes a long way.
Increasing transparency and allowing your team to fail in plain sight helps, too. Team members can see how leadership responds when an idea fails, empowering others to share their ideas. It also encourages retrospective meetings that improve success rates of future innovation.
You need systems in place that mitigate the negative impact caused by failures. For example, controlled releases, automated rollbacks, and featured flags can provide a safety net for developers.
6. Establish a Product Owner
Product owners plan out the project, manage priorities, and keep development projects on track.
They understand the law of diminishing returns when it comes to software development. This helps them remind team members that “good enough” is often best. As such, this prevents development teams from letting “perfection get in the way of progress”.
At the same time, product owners ensure developers move quickly on the right path. To do this, they understand the business goals and user needs for the solution.
The best product owners understand how developers work, the technical requirements for the project, and the processes that govern developer teams. They also understand the framework and constraints of the project while helping their team deliver quality solutions that support business goals and fulfill customer needs.
7. Consider a Minimal Viable Product (MVP)
MVPs speed up developer velocity by focusing your team on the essential elements of a product.
Instead of wasting time developing features customers won’t like or use, your team tests the waters with an MVP. This helps your team prioritize core features.
Plus, it’s easier to scope out and budget an MVP because it's leaner.
If your customers or the market responds positively, you can build out the features in later updates.
With the MVP completed, your team will move faster knowing what challenges they need to overcome when developing future versions of the software.
8. Provide Constructive Feedback
Honest, constructive feedback ensures developers improve over time.
You shouldn’t lie to protect someone’s feelings or “sugarcoat” the truth. In fact, being “polite” instead of honest sets you up for failure. You don’t communicate your expectations to your team clearly. When the team falls short, frustrations bubble to the surface.
The sudden switch in your demeanor and values can shock your team, damaging relationships.
Instead, you should provide accurate feedback in a productive manner. And you should explain that the goal of the feedback is to help your developers improve.
Giving and receiving feedback are skills that everyone must work on. Don’t assume people know how to do it. Instead, provide training and model how to do both.
That way, if people get upset during the process, you can redirect them to or remind them of their training.
Instead of feeling accusatory, the feedback process will feel more productive.
9. Reduce Dependencies
Project dependencies are inevitable.
But managing them can improve developer velocity because it reduces the instances where developers wait for other tasks before moving forward.
You want developers with a range of skills rather than all experts or new developers. Balanced teams can better delegate tasks and support each other, reducing dependencies.
You should also be aware of time zones and cultural differences that can create slowdowns. Teams with remote workers should create plans that cover both.
If you’re outsourcing application development, work with a reliable firm that you trust. The more experienced they are with your business and pain points, the less time they’ll waste.
10. Automate Repetitive Tasks
The average employee is productive for less than 3 hours a day.
Menial, repetitive tasks waste a ton of time for your developers. In most cases, you can see huge improvements in developer velocity by eliminating repetitive work through automation.
You’ll increase developer productivity while reducing errors (and the time spent fixing them). For example, you can automate testing using scripts that care for a range of tests on software. Or, you can integrate tools that help collect and implement feedback on code changes before they turn into major problems later.
Automation also streamlines communication and collaboration. You can enhance version control or enable multiple developers to work on projects simultaneously without overwriting.
11. Support the Coding Stage
Swift feedback during the coding stage helps developers make critical changes quickly. This ensures code works properly, reducing the need to rework code.
Code reviews should occur regularly.
This saves time by catching bugs early, speeding up development. You can also leverage pair programming (where two developers work together) to support knowledge sharing and collaboration.
Adequate documentation reduces learning curves for new developers and makes it easier to understand the functionalities of different code segments. With developer churn high, documentation will save you time by tracking software development.
12. Implement Agile Methodologies
Agile methodology focuses on collaboration, feedback, and flexibility to speed up development times.
Sprints empower teams to develop, test, and receive feedback on their work quickly. They keep work in scope. And focus on using feedback cycles to improve code, leading to better solutions rapidly. Teams table work that’s outside of scope, revisiting it in later sprints. This prevents scope creep and work-in-progress (WIP) sprawl.
With a greater emphasis on feedback between team members and stakeholders, your team will face fewer misunderstandings or code reworks. Plus, developers will stay focused on the key features that matter.
Agile is Flexible.
With rigid processes or dated requirements, your developers can shift rapidly to meet new market conditions or changing demands.
Agile emphasizes productivity: daily stand-ups, Kanban Boards, Test-Driven Development (TDD), Continuous Improvement and Development, pair programming, and retrospectives. These help teams reduce efficiencies and learn from mistakes.
Over time, your developers will streamline operations, delivering results faster.
13. Prioritize Communication and Collaboration
Clear communication prevents costly mistakes and unnecessary reworks. Your team needs to manage communication between clients, customers, business leaders, project managers, and developers seamlessly.
Easier said than done.
Responsiveness is vital. Delays in communication can lead to errors, misalignment, and frustration. Working together ensures projects align with expected outcomes and project objectives.
Collaboration amplifies your team's capabilities by leveraging the strengths of your developers to solve problems faster. It also supports shared learning, speeding up future projects.
Finally, collaboration and communication build trust and morale. The closer a team works together, the easier it is for them to work together.
14. Reduce Work in Progress (WIP) Tasks
Multitasking is notoriously inefficient. Context-switching drains focus and prevent developers from getting “in the zone”.
Work in progress (WIP) is essentially a list of competing tasks developers have to manage. As they switch between secondary tasks and their main task, they lose focus.
By reducing the WIP tasks your developers manage, you’ll remove juggling priorities. As a result, they can dive deeper into their work faster and build solutions quickly.
15. Encourage Learning and Development
The more your developers know, the easier it is for them to overcome challenges quickly.
Upskilling puts your developers in a better position to solve problems and reduce errors. They’ll have a larger knowledge base to pull from, making it easier for them to work.
The more up-to-date your developers are with technologies, the easier it is for them to build solutions or apply advanced approaches to existing business challenges.
As leadership encourages learning, they simultaneously encourage innovation.
This opens the door for breakthrough approaches to development that can improve developer velocity and business outcomes.
16. Use the Right Tools
Your developers need the right tools to do the job quickly and efficiently. With the right tools, your team can be 65% more innovative while improving retention rates by 47%.
What’s the best way?
You want to balance freedom and preference with budget and efficiency. Letting your developers add tools without oversight can lead to tech stack sprawl, costly shadow IT, and integration challenges.
Low-code applications (more on these later) can empower developers to build custom tools to fit their needs without adding to application sprawl or wasting your budget.
From application development to project management to testing, plenty of solutions exist to improve developer velocity.
Take the time to speak with your team and determine what they need.
17. CI/CD Pipelines
Continuous improvement and continuous development improve developer velocity by breaking up long, complex projects into smaller cycles.
Your developers work in parallel to upload code, get feedback, and improve.
It’s a continuous loop:
Automated testing is part of CI/CD. When developers submit a change, automated tests run to verify the functionality and integrity of the code. As such, your team will need to run fewer tests manually.
These shorter cycles make it easier to roll back updates and fix code if necessary. They also help developers find critical problems early on so they can rework the code.
As a result, your team can focus more on code development AND improvement (not one or the other.)
All of this means that CI/CD lowers development risks.
CI/CD results in smaller, more frequent releases with fewer changes between them. Issues are easier to spot and solve.
Downtime is minimal.
18. Reflect on and Improve Repeatable Processes
You need repeatable processes to achieve optimal developer velocity. Otherwise, you’ll waste time “reinventing the wheel” with each new development project.
Instead, you need to have a comprehensive playbook your development team can follow to achieve success with confidence. This cuts out the guesswork and speeds up velocity.
It goes beyond development.
Efficient employee onboarding, training, and evaluation processes minimize disruption during projects. And clearly defined project management processes ensure teams carry out sprints smoothly.
Your team should look for ways to automate processes regularly:
- Record loom videos detailing repeatable processes
- Create project templates
- Automate notifications
- Use tools when appropriate
- Collect feedback regularly
19. Leverage Low-Code Tools
Low-code platforms speed up application development by helping developers build solutions faster. They use minimal code in highly visual interfaces that allow users to build applications by dragging and dropping prefabricated code snippets.
As a SaaS platform built on cloud-based infrastructure, they offer a secure, affordable way for businesses to build custom solutions.
Low-code tools save developers time and businesses money because they make it possible to build custom applications without starting from scratch. As a result, developers can build apps 10x faster than before.
Whether they’re building business applications or tools to help improve the development process, low-code empowers developers. And empowered developers are more motivated, leading to further increases in productivity.
Because low-code tools use minimal code, there is less technical debt to manage. That means less headache, frustration, and stress from managing complex applications.
20. Utilize Citizen Developers
Citizen Developers are business users trained on low-code tools.
These are full-time employees who often work outside of your development teams. They typically do not have a technical background nor are they professional developers.
Instead, they leverage their experience with workflows, business needs, and customer feedback to create simple applications using low-code tools.
By allowing citizen developers to build simple solutions, they can shift numerous menial development tasks away from busy developers.
This lowers the number of WIP tasks developers have to manage, giving them more time to focus on complex development projects.
Still, citizen developers require oversight to function properly.
Your IT team will need to work with citizen developers to provide them with the proper framework and governance they need to create high-quality, secure applications.
What Negatively Impacts Developer Velocity
Developers rarely work in a vacuum.
They have other projects to manage and other tasks to complete. These competing priorities lead to context-switching, reducing productivity. They also add additional stress.
Plus, each project is different.
Despite this extensive list of strategies your team can implement to improve developer velocity, they may not all be applicable. For example, the codebase for the next project may not support CI/CD. Or, developer churn may result in teams that are more unbalanced. Teams may be less receptive to feedback or collaboration.
Ultimately, you must do what you can with what you have.
The Challenge with Increasing Developer Velocity
With the complexity of hybrid work environments, pressing demands, shifting marketing places, talent shortages, and rising costs, improving developer velocity feels paramount.
This can drive leaders to obsess over developer velocity. Each sprint turns into a report card on developer performance without regard to the task or project complexity.
If your team focuses too heavily on developer velocity, you may make the situation worse.
Deadlines trigger stress. Stress impacts productivity. Weak productivity leads to missed deadlines.
It’s a negative feedback loop.
Instead, it’s best to use developer velocity as a guide. Finding ways to improve it can help reduce costly bottlenecks. Plus, it’ll be easier to scope out tasks better.
When done correctly, it’s a win-win situation.
But, it’s also important to remember that each new project presents a unique set of challenges. Navigating them may be easier or more complex, depending.
As such, you don’t want to go all in on developer velocity. If you do, you could overlook the strengths and hard work of your team.