Measuring developer experience

In this episode, Abi Noda explains how to measure developer experience and why a good developer experience matters.

We also talk about:
  • What factors influence developer experience
  • What developer experience has to do with productivity, performance and even job retention
  • The SPACE framework, and how to use it to measure productivity
Abi Noda
About Abi Noda
Abi Noda is the CEO and founder of DX, a company that helps measure and improve developer experience.
Make code reviews your superpower at!

Read the whole episode "Measuring Developer Experience" (Transcript)

[00:00:00] Michaela: Hello, and welcome to the Software Engineering Unlocked Podcast. I'm your host, Dr. Michaela, and today I have the pleasure to talk to Abi Noda, CEO, and founder of DX, about measuring developer experience.

But before I start, I want to tell you about my code review workshops. I have worked with engineering teams for over 15 years now on improving their overall happiness, productivity, and developer experience.

And I know that code reviews can be a well quite challenging engineering practice. The reason is that we all assume developers know how to do good code reviews, and that they have the technical and social skills, but we don't actually give them training or instructions on how to do them. In addition, it's a team practice.

This means that we have to coordinate our efforts, we have to have some organizational maturity, and we have to have a shared understanding and shared values of what's important during code reviews. But many teams really suffer from many pain points such as long waiting times, high workloads for experienced engineers, or inconsistencies in their reviews that are done throughout the teams or the organization

This is why I specialize in helping development teams make code reviews their superpower. While doing empirical research at Microsoft and working with all major product teams such as Office Windows or Excel, I gained tons of industry experience and I share that during my code review workshops. The goal of those workshops is to make code reviews fast and, at the same time effective.

If that sounds interesting to you, hop over to or write me an email to book a workshop. So visit awesome code today. But now back to Abi Noda.

Abi Noda is the CEO of DX, a platform for measuring developer experience. Previously he worked at GitHub after his startup, PullPanda was acquired by them.

I know Abi from his work on code reviews and I was lucky enough to have worked with him on the research behind dx. So today we will talk about our joint venture to define and research, develop experience. About developer productivity and most importantly, about improving engineering processes and practices.

So I'm super, super thrilled to have Avi here with me on the podcast. Hello, Avi. Welcome to the show.

[00:02:23] Abi: Thanks, Michaela, excited to be here and so happy to be able to chat with you about developer experience. Yeah. Yeah.

[00:02:29] Michaela: So developer experience, I think, uh, some people know the term and some people are completely new and probably ask themselves developer experience.

What's that? Right? Can you briefly share your definition of developer experience?

[00:02:43] Abi: Well, of course I'm gonna turn this question back around to you in a moment, but as we both know, defining developer experience was a journey in of itself. When we began our research, we had. A vision, a thread of an idea of what developer experience was, but it wasn't until we spent a lot of time going through prior literature concepts from prior research in psychology and built on that, that we were able to actually.

Create a definition that was concrete for what developer experience is. So in our paper, of course, we define developer experiences, how developers think about, feel about, and value their work. In layman's terms, developer experience is about the lived experience of developers, the, the, the joy, the frustration.

The bottlenecks that they experience in their day-to-day work and encapsulating all those different factors which affect their experiences. Mm-hmm. That to me, and in our research is what developer experiences, but how. Well, I

[00:03:45] Michaela: would, I normally say, right, just in my practice, right? So not, no, not with a research hat on.

I would just say a good developer experience is if I can do my work joyfully, right? So I, I really like this, uh, way, and I, I actually got that really from the interviews that we did because we interviewed, uh, a couple of, uh, practitioners, right? Engineers, software engineers, um, and ask them about develop experience.

And I think this is, uh, this really stuck with me, right? So, Doing my, because I asked the people what, what, you know, what is a good developer experience? And I think this came up in different ways, obviously, and with different terms. But, um, this stuck with me, right? So doing my best work joyfully, not some work, but best work joyfully, right?

So it's fun and it's joy, it's quality, and I think everything is just in this little sentence. So I, I normally really go back to that. Um, yeah, yeah, yeah.

[00:04:37] Abi: Yeah. I like that a lot. And I remember when you came up with that line, we, we all loved it. Right. Yeah. And I think it's a good approach to, to define developer experience in that way by really a concrete depiction of what good experience looks like and what.

Bad experience looks like, because I think that's more concrete than just the abstract definition around feeling and thinking. Yeah, yeah. The psychological concepts. Yeah.

[00:05:02] Michaela: True. But I think also it was very clear for us when we did this work that if we are too vague about it and too, uh, practical about it, that, uh, from a research perspective, this is not gonna work.

Right. So we've really had to dissect this, uh, idea and, and look into it. Um, yeah, something else that, um, What's interesting for me, because you were saying you, you want to look at, you know, the real experiences and we have to make it practical. What was interesting for me about developer experience is that, um, some people can you, like you can have a, a crappy code base and still have a good developer experience, right?

And you can have a crappy code visit, have a horrible developer experience, right? So can you tell. Ask a little bit about the factors that we discovered, um, around developer experience and what are those, but what are factors, right? What, what does this even mean? Uh, factors of developer experience.

[00:05:55] Abi: Sure.

Well, I'm first speaking to the expert on this cuz you've led much of this part of our study. But, uh, you know, one thing we looked at in our research, of course, was what we called factors, which are the aspects of the work environment for developers that affect developer experience either positively or negatively.

So we. Identified over 25 factors in our research and building on prior research into developer productivity. Things such as psychological safety or product management processes, or having clear requirements for tasks and building test tools. All these different factors make up developer experience. And I think the first part of your question was referring to another discovery we made in the research, which was the contextual characteristics which affect developer experience.

And I think this was the discovery you really made, and that was that. Developer experience was not just about the surroundings of an individual, like the tools and the work processes, but it was also a function of an individual. Person's context, what their expectations were, what their day-to-day consisted of, how many years of experience they had, or what previous companies they had worked for.

So both the work environment as well as the, the individual lens of a person make up the overall developer experience in terms of how people think about, feel about, and value their work. Yeah, that's true.

[00:07:24] Michaela: Yeah. And, and actually now that you bring it up, I, I, I think about it and I was really fascinated by that because, Previous research that we looked at, they really looked at the factors, but never had this contextual thing about it, right?

That it's actually you. Right? So we can have the same experience being the same company, the same team, and you think it's cool and I think it's right, and it depends on the position that we have in our expectations, as you said and so on, right? Yeah. So yeah, this, this research was really fun. I really liked it.

Um, I think I talked about it on this podcast already. Um, One time. And, um, I'm going to link our paper as well, but I want to go a little bit deeper, uh, in this podcast with you now because you actually, um, productized this idea, right? Uh, uh, so you build a product around this and, um, you actually help people really measure developer experience, right?

You help help companies measure developer experience and. With these measurements, they're driving improvement processes. And obviously this is, you know, this is what I'm super interested about because I look at one aspect, right? I look mainly at code reviews, um, work with teams on measuring code reviews, uh, knowing the pain points and then improving their code review processes, right?

So you have this a little bit bigger picture here. You look at. Testing, probably building, right? So you can tell us more about this. So you look, um, at, uh, developer experience in general and then measuring that. And then I think the improvement is a little bit out of your scope, but you probably have a lot of insight into, uh, you know, what makes teams successfully improve and change their processes and practices.

So I really want to dig deep into your knowledge here and, um, and also so that my listeners hear about, um, yeah, what you learned about this.

[00:09:07] Abi: Yeah, well there, there's so much there to unpack. And of course our, our most recent paper, the E C M Paper on developer experience is really aimed at moving this conversation forward a little bit, particularly on the measurement side, and providing a glimpse of how organizations are tackling developer experience internally.

However, one thing I I would start by saying is that, you know, when we did our research, Michaela, we found that there was this big awareness gap within organizations developer experience and the the friction points and the bottlenecks. These were things that were so obvious to developers on the ground.

Yet we also heard them talk about how it was difficult to actually move solutions forward. Yes. Or get leadership to care. And I think what's happening in the industry right now, Is really the, the sort of a, a chronological progression of what we discovered in our research. I think leaders and companies are just now starting to open their eyes and become aware of the challenge and the opportunity that developer experience represents within their organization.

Yeah, so. Uh, as we talk about how organizations are measuring developer experience and how organizations are improving developer experience, I wanna caveat the discussion by saying, I think this is rapidly evolving. Yeah. And a lot of leaders in organizations are still trying to figure it

[00:10:27] Michaela: out. Yeah. And maybe something that I want to add here, because sometimes I'm, I, I'm blown, but it's blowing my mind actually that I, I'm now daring to say it.

I think I'm the only one that's. Out there in the internet that's, uh, working actively since four years on improving code reviews, working with teams, giving workshops, and helping them turn around their horrible experience on code reviews and, and helping them to make them. And I'm always like, Why is nobody else doing that?

Like, but I think this will change. I actually think this will change, right? There will be, uh, more people maybe looking at developer processes, helping people improve, doing change management, um, and, and, and, and things like this. But yeah, I'm still like, I'm still ba I'm like, this is so obvious, right? Like, uh, people are, and, and there's so much money going into horrible engineering practices, people that suffer in code reviews that get all, you know, these negative things of bottlenecks.

Toxic behavior nitpicking, you know, like, I mean, I have a list of things, pain points. It's, it's. Yeah. Huge. Right? And, and there goes so much money into this practice that is not done in a, in a nice way. And the benefits like, uh, knowledge sharing and, you know, all of that, they de diminish, right? And I wonder why is nobody doing something about this?

Right? And, and so yeah, I totally see what you're saying. Um, it's new, right? People don't know exactly what they're doing or, or. Uh, this is maybe too far, but we are really early. I would say we are really early and there were things like Dora for example, right, which is on a very different level. It's a very like, uh, on a very large scale level, very, uh, few things that we are looking at.

And this is what we try to measure and to improve. Maybe you can talk a little bit about there is space, um, and, and, and Peggy, Margaret and Story. For example, Dr. Margaret and Story worked with us, um, also on this research, right? She's also author of space and so on, so. Um, there are some, you know, first seats I would say in this area.

Uh, but it's, it's early. Yeah, it's early. So how, how do you see that?

[00:12:31] Abi: Yeah, it's definitely early and it's exciting to think about how all the dots are connecting when we look backwards. I think things like Dora, which you've mentioned, and the space framework, really, they are all relevant to developer experience, although in terms of the way in which they're applied, I don't think they really get at the problem of how to really understand and improve developer experience.


[00:12:54] Michaela: Maybe quickly say what Dora is in space. I let you tell the people. Sure.

[00:13:00] Abi: Yeah. Yeah. Dora. Dora stands for DevOps Research and Assessment. Dora was a company started by Dr. Nicole Forsgren, who of course we work together with today. And Dora was focused on investigating a construct called software delivery performance, which is different than the construct we're focused on, which is developer experience.

Mm-hmm. And the construct which space was focused on, which was developer productivity. Productivity, yeah. Yeah. And, Dora and then the book that spun out of the company accelerate. And then the annual reports that are continued by Google today have been an ongoing investigation into the link between software delivery performance and business performance, as well as the inputs and capabilities that drive software delivery performance.

And so most people know of Dora through the popularized. Four key metrics, lead time, deployment, frequency, yada yada. Yeah. But really the research program, those are the, you know, dependent variables that are being studied against the numerous capabilities, practices, and inputs. Uh, things like version control or trunk based development or continuous delivery.

Accelerate was really born out of the early days of the DevOps movement and the movement toward continuous delivery. And then fast forward a few years. Space was born and space was written to try to demystify the conversation around developer productivity, which of course is still an elusive problem space and not solve developer productivity.

However, what space did was provide a sort of meta-analysis or summarization of all the prior research that existed on developer productivity. Of course much of that research was led by Dr. Margaret Ann, story, Peggy, who we also work with today. And you know, space tried to create a practical framework for thinking about all these different aspects of developer productivity that have emerged through practitioners as well as research.

And put that into a simple framework for organizations to to think about. Yeah, and I think one of the interesting things about space was it really made this point explicitly that you can't reduce developer productivity to a single number. You certainly can't reduce it down to output metrics like commits or number of core requests.

And I think what sort of has opened opened the door and inspired us in our research around developer experience was this idea in space that you have to factor in. The perspectives of developers themselves, their sentiment, their attitudes and opinions toward their work are a big part of measuring and understanding developer productivity as it is also important to developer experience.

[00:15:42] Michaela: Yeah. So I would say what everything, what is uniting everything is we want better outcomes for the business, right? As you want, uh, better work experiences. Um, and then there are different ways to get that right. Dora is all about, okay, I'm deploying very often. I have. Small changes. I can roll back, I can react to failures and so on, right?

So there's no Friday deploy and then everything goes bum and we have to work, you know, like, uh, several days to get that back. So it's, it's somehow measuring from this perspective. Then space is all about productivity. Please don't, um, look at how many stories that person, uh, closed or how many, uh, added lines they added and say, oh, this person is especially, or specifically, uh, very.

Productive because they added 1000 lines yesterday to our code base. Right. Um, and then develop experience. I think, uh, why I was so fascinated by it is because it's really about how do I. I think also dev developer know best. This is what I deeply believe, right? They know. And then you have the surrounding of, um, of, you know, circumstances that force you into practices or processes or, you know, have to deal with things that are a little bit out of your control.

And, um, and if we. Pay closely attention to where the developer says, oh my God, this is horrible. Um, and if you can turn those moments around into, oh yeah, this is working. We get a really good output for our business. Right. So I think this is, this is a little bit different way of, of thinking about it, but can you tell a little bit how, how do you measure that?

Because, uh, you, you formed this, um, platform for measuring developer experience the X, right? So, so how can I imagine that? How do you. You know, measure or developer experience,

[00:17:29] Abi: how do you do that? Yeah. I would reiterate what you said around, you know, our focus with developer experience being guiding organizations to focus on the pain points of developers, which are surfaced by the developers themselves.

And the thesis around this is that if an organization. Focuses on those things and improves them, then you can improve developer productivity. So this is around improving developer productivity. Similar to the narrative around things like Dora and Space. Now, when it comes to how to measure developer experience, it was obvious from the beginning that you couldn't.

Measure or understand developer experience without heavily relying on the perspectives of developers themselves. And in more technical terms. This a practice of turning feedback and, uh, perspectives of people into quantitative measurements is called psychometrics, also known as surveys. And so in terms of how to measure developer experience, the primary approach that organizations need to follow is a survey-based measurement approach.

They need to ask developers questions about how they feel about the work, what their actual day-to-day workflows are, and take those inputs and then use statistical methods to turn those into both qualitative and quantitative signals that they can use to understand where they're at. And measure progress as they attempt to improve.

So you

[00:19:00] Michaela: actually built the observability platform, not for our software, but for our software engineers. Is that, is that correct? Well,

[00:19:09] Abi: I love that analogy. Yeah, I love that analogy. Cause one book I've read that I really love, it's called How to Measure Anything and it's a book on how to measure intangibles.

And in that book they have a chapter where they, it's titled. Humans, the ultimate measurement instrument. Mm-hmm. And I was recently speaking to someone and talked about how a thermometer, a digital thermometer is a measurement instrument. It takes an input from the air. I don't actually know how to thermometer works, but it takes an input and it spits out.

Signal, it spits out data, and the human brain can do that as well. Humans can observe the world around them, observe the processes and tools, and then spit out data into our systems such as dx, a platform for metric developer experience where we can turn those signals into numbers and insights. And so I, I love your analogy.

Absolutely. We're using humans to give us data about our tools and systems. Yeah.

[00:20:11] Michaela: So, Now we understand why it's important. We understand. I think what we are doing here, we are measuring our experience and identifying, for example, pain points. Right? Uh, what's the next step? So you, I know that you have already tons of, uh, engineering organization that use dx, right?

So you have tons of insights. You're also, you're still interviewing. Many, many people, right? Engineering managers, VPs, people from the platform teams that really are only focused on measuring developer experience and improving developer experience. But where to go from there, let's say we know. Let's say, um, our testing infrastructure sucks, right?

What's the next step? What are people doing? What's successful? What makes you successful? Because I've seen it, right? I do it with code reviews. Um, and, and, and I know I have a lot of companies that try to improve their code review processes internally. They maybe even know what their pain points are.

Maybe they don't know exactly, but um, but then they fail. And so, so it's not that easy. Change management is not easy, right? Improvement comes not naturally, I would say. So what's your take on that? What does it take to make, uh, positive change and impact on developer experience?

[00:21:25] Abi: I think one of the things that I've learned that wasn't clear at the beginning of this journey as the importance of executive buy-in, as we know from our research developers, Are often frustrated with how obvious these problems are to them, yet how little the business or leadership seems to care.

And I think one trend we're seeing in the industry as a whole is that the C-Suite is starting to care about developer experience. So companies like Microsoft, Atlassian, Spotify, all have developer experience KPIs. As C level metrics for their organization and everything as far as change management is, change management is cascading down from there.

It's very difficult to drive substantial change in an organization, especially change that requires human processes, not just fixing technical systems without buy-in from leadership. Uh, once you have buy-in from leadership, I think there are two primary modes. For improvement, and we can talk later about specific examples and where the challenges are in each of these modalities.

But one mode of improvement is really top-down initiatives or sweeping cross-cutting initiatives led by upper level leadership or dedicated developer productivity teams or platform teams. So the example you brought up around build and test tools, for example, that is a very common foundational level challenge that is often well addressed by a dedicated platform team or dedicated developer productivity team that tackles that problem looking across entire organization.

The other modality for how organizations try to improve developer experience is by focusing on enabling local improvements on every individual team across the organization. Michaela, in our research, one of the things we found was that developer experience. Expand the entire software development life cycle and that a lot of the challenges were specific to the context of individual teams.

It might not be that there is technical debt that is really the entire organization. It might just be a specific component or part of the code base that one team is working on. And as you know, with code reviews, it might just be the processes of one team. It might not be a systemic issue across organization.

Mm-hmm. And so the second mode of improvement focuses on providing. Education, insights and support to local teams to enable them to drive their own local improvements to the issues that are most pressing for them. Yeah.

[00:23:56] Michaela: So something that, you know, the, when you said the first thing we need buy-in, you know, we need, uh, people behind higher up management must, you know, stay behind us.

The only thing that came to my mind is, We need money actually also, right? Uh, which is the cruel reality, right? We can be, um, very engaging and very enthusiastic about something. But if you're not willing to spend money, so. Then I think it's going to fail. And I mean money here in this way of, I have to dedicate engineers to build, uh, out our testing tools, right?

This is, it's not for free. I have, you know, let's say five people or maybe two people, or even one person, right? I have a whole, uh, a full-time engineer of working on something that's not going directly to the business. And I, I think sometimes people really struggle with that. Um, Also for local improvements, you can say, oh yeah, we should really work on that.

But in addition to what you all do on your regular basis, in your 40 hour work week or whatnot, right? Then I also want you to do this, but I don't give you time for that, which means I don't give you money for that because if I give you time for it, I, half of your work or 20% should go into this improvement, right?

So, Um, sometimes we don't talk about it. I, I think people always talked about, you know, yeah, we have to have commitment or buy-in, but actually we have to throw money at the problem as well. Right. So, or willing to be, uh, spending money on that. Right. Um, and, and another, and, and maybe the second question, I always ask two questions.

So you have to, uh, is that I also have seen that, right? I've seen that people, um, get more into that. I saw that, especially around, I. End of, or, or beginning of 22, I think, and then end of 22 when the whole layoffs happen. I was like, what's going to happen now? Maybe this is also why I bring up this BUN money problem here right now.

We have layoffs everywhere, cutting and so on. Have you seen something like this? Are people now, um, again, a little bit more tight with their improvements? They are big on the vision and the ideas of improvement, but then they're tied on the money that they want to invest in the problem.

[00:26:06] Abi: These are such important points you've brought up, and you're absolutely right, both of the things you mentioned.

So at the leadership level at organizations, there's a huge challenge of figuring out what the right investment should be in. Developer experience improvements. And at the local level, like you said, there's often a challenge around the conflicting priorities of for, for local teams of should we, do we have time to clean up some technical debt, or do we have to go ship the next feature that product management told us we need to deliver?

Uh, both of these challenges are real. Common headwinds that both managers at the local level and executives need to confront and, and navigate. I think as far as your question around the, the overall trend right now, given the current economic state, There have absolutely been platform teams and developer productivity organizations that have been downsized or even eliminated at the same time.

I think there is just as many examples of organizations that are doubling down on their investments in developer, uh, productivity. And that is because the ROI of improvements to developer productivity are powerful. When we think large organization with hundreds of engineers, if. You can improve efficiency or productivity, and let's use those terms loosely for the purpose of this conversation by even 1% or 2%.

Then there's enormous amount of capacity gained back to the organization that can be quantified in terms of real dollars to the business. The challenge oftentimes is that it is difficult to. Identify what that ROI really is. It is difficult to quantify what efficiency and productivity mean within an organization.

It's difficult for leaders to convey that effectively to stakeholders to get that executive buy-in. So that's one part of, I think what I'm seeing as far as how leaders are trying to navigate the challenge around what's the right investment. And there's a lot of. Podcast that I've recently done, conversations I've had with leaders at all different organizations and different organizations just have different philosophies on this and different cultures.

A organization like Google, for example, has historically had an enormous investment. In their developer productivity organization that would astound those people out there in the industry. Uh, and whereas, you know, a lot of earlier stage startups probably are just starting to think about forming dedicated groups and investing in infrastructure and improving the developer experience at the local team level.

The challenge you brought up of the conflicting priorities, I think is a, a very real problem. And I think this is an example again, where executive buy-in is so important. When the leaders at the very top of the organization are talking about the importance of developer experience and developer productivity, that really opens the door to middle management and frontline management, having discussions about what amount of investment they can make at local levels to these problems as well.

The anti, the, sorry, not. Common challenge I see is when an organization is trying to enable local teams to improve without the buy-in from executives. That often leads to the problem you described of there's just these conflicting priorities and managers have no choice but to neglect internal developer experience improvement and favor of just focusing on feature delivery.

[00:29:50] Michaela: Yeah. So at the beginning of, you know, Can I say recession? I dunno if people even say it is, but I would say it is anyway. Um, when we all thought like, maybe it's coming and, you know, um, I, I heard, I unfortunately forgot who said it, but it was, it was, uh, a conversation about short-term thinking and long-term thinking, right?

And that a lot of companies are actually going stronger out of such a difficult. Phase because they're having a long time thinking, um, strategy. Right. And I think it, it is, it's what you're saying, it's return of investment, but it's also if people have the understanding what it means, right. To improve something that's hard to measure, something that's hard to understand.

Uh, but I think it's, it's, it's also maybe also, you know, uh, being able to see the pic, uh, bigger picture, right? So to know that people that are. Happier, um, are more productive people that are more productive, you know, are, are happier, productive, and more proactive. I did a lot of research and reading and, and and so on in our, in our journey on Proactiveness Rich.

This is such an important concept that we don't talk enough about, I think, in our paper, but, you know, it was 10 pages or something. I think we even got, went over it, right. But, um, Proactiveness, you can only get that right if people are actually happy and if they, if they're engaged with your company. And, uh, and, and what this brings to your organization is so important, right?

So I think there's this short-term and long-term thinking, uh, thing, but something else that came in, into my mind, so, Um, there was actually, uh, a tweet I think by, uh, Georgia, um, recently Have you seen it? Where he talked about that, uh, PR numbers are now used as stack rank number actually, right? So how many prs are people opening and closing and, you know, push, pushing through and merging, and they are now used to, uh, you know, Uh, justify who has to go and who has not to go right in this difficult time of layoffs.

And I think it's a wonderful example of how dangerous metrics can be, right? And I'm always, you know, me for, for, for a long time now, right? You, you know that I'm, I'm very data driven. But on the other hand, I'm very skeptical about metrics, right? I'm, I'm like, when somebody tells me, so how should we measure now our improvements for, for, for code reviews, right?

I'm. Don't measure, uh, turnaround time of prs, please don't do it. Or number of prs or something. Right? So, um, but what about dx? Can we misuse it or have you seen people misuse those numbers to, or gamify the system and so on? Right? So most of the metrics I've seen, Dora included most of the space metrics, right?

Can be actually turned around to be evil. What about dx? Do you think it's, it's completely, I. Is it completely space heaven or you know, or do we have some, do we have to be, uh, cautious about it as well?

[00:32:49] Abi: I think all numbers. Can be dangerous if you use in the wrong ways. I will say, and I'm of course a little bit biased, but you know, I've worked extensively with both types of metrics and in my own career, I do think that our approach to measuring developer experience is much less perceptible to the types of problems and harmful consequences that we see with past approaches to measurement.

And I think it boils down to the fact that. Measuring developer experience and really developer experience itself is really ultimately in service of developers themselves, and this is in contrast to metrics, like lines of code or number of pull requests, even metrics like cycle time, which are often more of a top-down view of developers or the development process.

Look down upon by leadership, and there's a inherent tension there when metrics and use in that way, because of course, leadership does not understand the full context and full story behind these types of metrics. And oftentimes leaders are unaware that those types of metrics are really just fundamentally ineffective and invalid for measuring software development in the first place.

And so I think the devex approach to measuring productivity and software development processes is. I don't wanna. Come on here and proclaim that it's foolproof and bulletproof. But I do think it's much less susceptible to the types of flaws and negative patterns we see with other types of measures.

[00:34:22] Michaela: Okay. So when I was working, um, with a couple of teams actually in the past on code reviews, um, even though I would say, well, when I'm coming in and working with teams on code reviews, Only good thing can out come out for the teams, right? This is my perspective, but still, you know, I, I have experienced teams that are reluctant to actually work on that, reluctant to share their pain points, reluctant to do changes, right?

There are fears behind it, um, different concerns and so on. Um, Have you seen that as well? That people, for example, don't want to fill out the surveys? Don't want to say that actually they have a problem with their testing infrastructure, um, that they maybe, I mean, I'm, I'm just. From my experience stating here that if I'm saying I have a problem with testing, then I have maybe to invest time into that, you know, solving this problem, there becomes this expectation that we are going to improve, you know, this pain point.

And, and maybe I don't have the time, right? Maybe there is not the buy-in or maybe, you know, maybe there is the official buy-in, but no actually buy-in. And so, so I see a lot of problems here. Have you seen that as well? Um, and what, what can we do about it and how can we even address

[00:35:30] Abi: it? Absolutely. In our recent paper, Michaela, we talk about some of the challenges of running surveys and some recommendations we have for processes that organizations can follow.

But to your specific point around the concern for developers in filling out surveys. Absolutely. There is a, just as there's a skepticism toward the accuracy and reliability of surveys by leadership, There's also a quite a bit of skepticism and fear of surveys from employees and developers who may have had prior experience with HR surveys or other types of assessments that were used in ways that didn't seem productive or safe to, to employees.

Yeah, and so success. With surveys, first of all, to your question, absolutely. There are many examples of organizations that don't present these surveys in a proper way to employees, and as a result, developers are fearful and there are, there's poor engagement on these surveys. I think what we see is that organizations that communicate and present these types of developer listening programs, that's what I like to call them now, uh, survey programs to developers in a really intentional and sincere way where it's positioned as, Hey, we want to create a, a great place to work for our developers.

And in order to do that, we need feedback. From you. We need feedback on what the pain points are in our tools and processes, and when presented in that way to developers. And of course the, the data is confidential and it's not, people aren't singled out in terms of their responses when there are safety mechanisms like that along with clear intent and communication.

I haven't seen too many instances of what you're talking about where developers are highly skeptical or fearful of participating. And so with organizations that DX, our company works with, we are seeing sustained participation rates of over 90%. And that's due to a combination of factors, both the guidance we provide to organizations on how to implement a survey program, and also the safety mechanisms that are incorporated into our platform itself.

[00:37:45] Michaela: Mm-hmm. Yeah. And, um, so you said that the intent, but who is responsible later on to like, we see it? Who is responsible? Like, I'm filling it in, I say this is all, you know, horrible here and great here. Um, who is going to get rid of the mess that I am experiencing?

[00:38:04] Abi: So, That's a big challenge. You know, a lot of organizations who get started with measuring developer experience and surfacing feedback are overwhelmed by the amount of things they discover, almost in a similar way as when we did our research and we're blown away with the amount of.

Pain and frustration that exists in the developer experience. And so, you know, taking that feedback in and quickly turning it into solutions is, is not something that most organizations necessarily have the capacity for. And so what I've seen work while for leader leaders is to, to not promise something that's unrealistic, which is that all the problems will be solved.

But to start a dialogue with their developer population, it's okay to say. Hey, this feedback is incredible and it will help us begin to get an understanding of our challenges in our, as an organization, and it will help us inform our priorities, not just today, but in the future. It's also okay to say, although this feedback is great, we aren't able to focus on it right now.

We can't, we can't spin out 10 teams to start focusing on these problems. We, we have other more important business priorities, but I think as long as there's that dialogue, Candid dialogue between leadership, management and developers. I think these programs can be successful even if there aren't concrete initiatives around solving problems that are immediately launched.

Of course, long term you can't keep just acknowledging the feedback without doing anything about it. But I think organizations can, can bite things up slowly and can really focus on having a. Dialogue with their popul uh, employees rather than feeling like they have to respond and solve everything right away.


[00:39:51] Michaela: and I think this is, uh, also coming back to the, the research that I did with you. Um, This was so clear, uh, from, from the people right, that talked with me, and that that shared like, you know, the most frustrated ones and the ones that actually left their companies were the ones that felt like culture.

You know, the culture of it's not going to change. I cannot even voice, you know, my frustration and so on, right? Those were the people that actually said, yeah, this was horrible. You know, nobody did something about it. You weren't even allowed to speak up. Right? And so I actually laughed and changed. So I think this is.

What you're saying is, uh, very true. It's a dialogue, right? It's also important that we are not over promising. Um, things are hard to change. Um, processes are hard to change. I think the tooling is maybe even a little bit easier. Not easy, but easier. Processes, practices, they're really, um, difficult to change and it needs a lot of commitment and also some time.

Um, but yeah, it's a dialogue. I really like that. So, well, this brings us actually, um, sort of to the end, Avi. What is your, what is your wrap up for this, for this conversation?

[00:40:57] Abi: I. Well, one thing I wanted to add kind of to the current topic is that I see organizations trying all kinds of creative ways to address a lot of the challenges we've talked about both the implementation of developer listening programs and also the the resourcing problem, the capacity problem.

We talked about how to actually make sure that follow up occurs and improvements are implemented. For example, one organization that I met with recently is doing something unique that I haven't seen anywhere else, which is that they had an existing agile coaching organization within their company.

Mm-hmm. And they're now redeploying the agile coaches to actually be the leaders of developer experience improvements on every individual team across the company. I think that's a really interesting approach that solves one of the problems we talked about earlier where frontline engineering managers are already so slammed with delivery work that they don't really have the capacity for working on improvement efforts.

Yeah. Uh, as far as wrap up goes, I think what thing I wanted to say earlier as well is that when we talked about getting that buy-in from leadership and why there's a challenge there and why one of the challenges quantifying the potential. That exists in improving developer experience. I think it's worth taking a step back and saying that, look, we know that leaders care a lot about developer productivity and experience.

We also know that developer experience is one of the keys to improving developer experience. So I think the challenge here is to really. Find the link between the two, and I think that's what our research today is really focused on. The final thing I would leave you with, Michaela, is that earlier we talked about the, the challenge that leaders face in figuring out what the right investment in developer experience is, but I think that if we take a step back, it's worth mentioning that we know that business leaders and engineering leaders care a lot about developer productivity and efficiency in their businesses in general.

We also know from our research, Michaela, that developer experience really is the key to improving developer productivity. And I So, so I, whoops. So I think that the opportunity for us, and I think the focus of our research going forward as well, is finding ways to help organizations link the two and find measurements and ways of quantifying that opportunity so that they can advocate for the investments and opportunities that exist within their organizations.

[00:43:28] Michaela: Yeah. Yeah, I totally agree. I think this is also a really nice ending. Um, thank you Avi, so much for spending time with us, talking about your amazing startup and, um, sharing all your wisdom around, uh, developer improvement, developer experience. And yeah, thank you for your time.

[00:43:46] Abi: Thanks so much for having me on the show, and it's been a pleasure to work with you on, on this research and excited to continue working with you on more research in the future.

Yeah, me

[00:43:53] Michaela: too. Okay, Abby. Bye-bye.

[00:43:56] Abi: Bye-bye.

[00:43:59] Michaela: This was another episode of the Software Engineering Unlocked Podcast. If you enjoyed the episode, please help me spread the word about the podcast. Send the episode to a friend via email, Twitter, LinkedIn. Well, whatever messaging system you use, or give it a positive review on your favorite podcasting platform, such as Spotify or iTunes.

This would mean really a lot to me. So thank you for listening. Don't forget to subscribe and I'll talk to you in two weeks. Bye.

Copyright 2022 Doctor McKayla