When it comes to software delivery, there’s a lot of pressure to get projects done faster to increase business value. Stakeholders push for shorter delivery times, and many teams are left with no choice but to adhere to these shorter deadlines.
Although there’s a need to stick to tight deadlines, pushing teams beyond their capacities can affect not only the quality of work, but also the quality of your team. Unreasonable deadlines can lead to developer resentment, an unengaging work culture, and more mistakes. Ultimately, pushing your team can lead to burnout and a higher turnover rate.
This article provides practical tips to sustainably improve outcomes for the software deployment process, without exhausting your teams. Read more to learn what Developer Experience (DX) is and why it’s important to your organization, some factors that can delay delivery speed, and how to optimize software delivery without working around the clock.
Let’s dive in!
What is DX (Developer Experience)?
Many organizations focus on UX, or User Experience. Equally as important, however, is DX, the Developer Experience.
DX describes the experience developers have while using or working on your product. Developers are users too, so software should take into account ease of use for developers in the same way that the user experience is taken into account.
Fabian Fagerholm and Jürgen Münch, computer scientists from the University of Helsinki, divided DX into three distinct categories: cognition, emotion, and aspiration.
- Cognition: What do developers feel about the development infrastructure? This can include the platform, techniques and methods used, and procedures.
- Emotion: How do software developers feel about the work that they do? The emotional aspect of DX includes feelings about the workplace, culture, team spirit, and feelings of belonging.
- Aspiration: How do developers rate the value of their contribution to the project? How does the project affect their goals, plans, commitment, and motivation?
According to this definition, a positive developer experience is one where the software delivery infrastructure creates a fun and satisfying workflow for team members.
Balancing the need for a positive DX with short turnaround times can be difficult. Instead of overworking developers, understanding and optimizing the software development lifecycle is key to meeting tight deadlines and keeping developers happy.
What determines software delivery speed?
There are many factors that contribute to software delivery speed. Understanding what can delay delivery is the first step towards finding ways to optimize the software delivery process.
Adhering to the software development life cycle
The software development life cycle is a framework that determines what steps towards a completed software product should be taken at what time. The typical life cycle has 6-8 steps: Planning, defining requirements, designing and prototyping, software development, testing, delivering the software and finally, operations and maintenance.
Faced with a tight deadline, it can be tempting to skip ahead, or neglect the planning stages of the cycle, but all of the stages of the life cycle exist for a reason. The software development life cycle was designed to maximize efficiencies in the development process. Because the life cycle is broken down into smaller steps, it allows for analysis and troubleshooting at every step, reducing inefficiencies and improving productivity. By skipping ahead, you’re reducing the opportunities to address problems as they arise, which can further delay the project.
Complexities in the software development process can slow down a project and increase developers’ workloads. Complex software architecture and third party integrations slow down teams. Unreasonable project deadlines and scope, internal issues, and unclear goals and objectives all add to development process complexities. Just like with user experience, reducing complexity is key to a good developer experience.
Compromising on the quality of code may seem like a good way to slash the timeline in half, but in reality it lengthens the time to delivery. Cutting corners in terms of code quality may be necessary, especially in the beginning stages of a project. Eventually, however, you will need to fix any errors to improve functionality for end users. The more errors there are, the harder it is to deliver software in time. In addition, if key parts of the project are built on low-quality code, it can be even more difficult to fix later on.
Composition of teams
How you divide your teams has a large impact on the efficiency of the development process. The larger the team, the more difficult it is to find common ground and communicate effectively. The ideal size for software development teams is 5-7. In addition to the size of the team, team performance has a direct impact on time to delivery. DevOps teams that are experienced and highly self-motivated will not only get the job done faster, but will be able to more easily implement new features and troubleshoot any potential delays. Hiring new developers isn’t a bad thing, but it’s important to ensure that you’re training them well, or placing a more experienced developer to mentor them.
How to sustainably improve software delivery times
Instead of burning out teams by extending the workday to meet deadlines, there are a few steps you can take to increase the efficiency of your development teams.
Hire more developers
The easiest way to accommodate tight deadlines is to hire more developers. Hiring freelance developers can be a great solution if you don’t have the resources to hire and train another full-time employee. Freelance developers typically have the skills to jump right into a project, with little onboarding needed. Of course, not all organizations have the resources to bring on new talent for every project, but if your budget allows you to, then expanding your development team is a great way to speed up software delivery performance. Just make sure to facilitate smooth communication between teams to eliminate double work and other inefficiencies.
Present a clear roadmap
Taking the time in the beginning of the project to present a clear roadmap can go a long way in being more efficient as the project goes on. By planning out every step of the process, development teams will know exactly what comes next, reducing the amount of oversight needed to keep things running on schedule. Having a clear roadmap also provides the opportunity for teams to provide feedback regarding the scope of the project. Be sure to define what frameworks and methodology you’re using to develop the software, so everyone’s on the same page. Regardless of what framework your roadmap is in, be sure to have a plan for technical debt and work in progress.
Limit work in progress and avoid technical debt
Leaving too many tasks open can quickly overwhelm teams, and reduce efficiency. If you’re using a Kanban board, limit the amount of tasks you leave in the “work in progress” board. Finish open tasks first, before tackling the next.
While finishing tasks quickly to move on to the next can help get the project done faster, teams should avoid too much technical debt. Technical debt is an intentional decision to implement a subpar solution in order to quickly produce a software product. The problem is, those solutions will have to be brought up to standard eventually, which can severely delay a future project that’s otherwise close to the finish line. The more technical debt you have, the more “heavy lifting” coding your team will have to accomplish towards the end.
Automation every step of the way
Workflow automation can have the biggest impact on speeding up development times, especially if you’re not able to devote more developers to the project.
At the start of the project, choose an IDE (Integrated Development Environment) with comprehensive autocomplete functions to reduce time typing out code, as well as functions that help to automatically format code. Prettier and ESLint provide templates to help reduce common coding errors, and format as you go.
A CI/CD (Continuous Integration and Continuous Delivery) pipeline automates the process of delivery. With continuous improvement software development, teams continuously merge their code into a central repository to prevent coding silos. This kind of instant pipeline facilitates instant feedback, reduces mistakes, and enables an iterative workflow.
Automating testing and debugging can save time by reducing the need for human testers. Visual Studio Code, IntelliJ Idea, and WebStorm are all IDEs that have built in debuggers.
Taking the lean approach to software development means optimizing time and resources devoted to the project. Teams should not only use automation tools to speed up development itself, but also to optimize time management.
Having uninterrupted Focus Time coupled with regular breaks is essential in ensuring that your developers have the time they need to complete important tasks, instead of constantly interrupting the workday with meetings. Clockwise lets developers set their optimal time to focus, and automatically updates availability based on Focus Time, working hours, and schedule preferences.
Flexible Meetings is a time-efficient way for teams to effortlessly schedule and reschedule meetings as needed, without having to take away from coding time to coordinate via email.
Other productivity and communication tools like Asana and Slack can help teams keep track of their progress, and communicate quickly. Clockwise integrates with Asana and Slack to minimize switching between productivity platforms.
As software development teams work within the Scrum framework and agile approach, there is more pressure to shorten delivery timelines. Overworking your team is not a sustainable solution to addressing tight deadlines, and can lead to burnout and high developer turnover rates. Instead, you can address other factors that add to software delivery times, like software complexity, code quality, and team structure.
Even if you’re not able to devote more developers to the project, you can shorten the time to delivery by using automation tools and giving your team uninterrupted Focus Time to code.
Read next: What is a time orchestration platform?