How to Ensure Your Developers are Best Utilized
Why is it important to make the most of your developers?
There is no doubt that software development is a highly technical and demanding organizational function. Often, this leads to developers not being utilized optimally, leading to dissatisfied employees, poor code quality, inefficient development processes, increased expenses, and other suboptimal outcomes. In order to ensure that internal or outsourced developers are utilized as effectively as possible within an organization, there must be a clear understanding of the role of each of the developers individually and within the context of the organization. This includes their respective responsibilities, strengths, and weaknesses. Additionally, effective utilization of developers requires a well-defined process for development, project backlog, and project management.
In this article, we will discuss ways to ensure developers are better utilized so they can create the best possible solutions for your organization and customers so you can stay ahead of the competition.
Assessing Developer Utilization
Are your software developers using their skills to their fullest potential and on best-fit projects? Or are they being over-utilized due to a lack of technical expertise within the organization? Several factors influence how developers are used, including skill set, project size, team composition, priorities, and organizational culture. An effective workflow should account for these factors to optimize developer utilization and improve productivity and satisfaction.
Leadership must understand how, when, and where developers are using their skills and if they are being utilized to their full potential to assess developer utilization of an organization properly. This can be accomplished using standardized metrics and by reviewing time sheets, in project standups, during employee formal and informal reviews, through surveys, and in department meetings. Some helpful metrics include the following:
- Average lead time from start to complete
- Estimated hours to complete a task vs. actual hours
- Code coverage
- Frequency of code reviews
- Number of code reviews
- Number of commits
- Time spent on fixing bugs
- Number of bugs created from their tasks
- “Velocity budget” based on tasks multiplied by their complexity
- Consistent production of useful software
- Number of tickets closed
- Output per sprint relative to previous sprints
How to Improve Developer Utilization
Improving developer utilization has long been a top priority for software companies. All too often, developers are either overworked or underutilized. Due to the increasing demand for developers, finding and hiring the right talent can be challenging. With the right strategies in place, it is possible to improve developer utilization and reduce costs while also meeting customer demands and maximizing organization profits. This starts with opening the lines of communication, automating where possible, and cross-training developers.
Cross Training Developers
Software developers are a key group of employees that can benefit from cross-training. In order to maximize employee productivity, it is important to cross-train employees in different skill sets when it makes sense. This can help employees be more versatile and able to work on various projects.
For example, a developer who knows a specific language and part of another should continue training on both. Cross-training can help employees be more efficient when they need to work on a project using a language or tool with which they are less familiar. This allows them to use their knowledge in different ways and be more resourceful in their work.
Another example would be to train developers that are skilled in Front-End technologies also to utilize back-end technologies. This will build the developer’s expertise into that of a full-stack developer. Having developers able to work on both front-end and back-end tasks will alleviate the issue of having an equal amount of work available for front-end and back-end developers. Frequently, projects may have more front-end or back-end work, leaving part of the team underutilized.
By ensuring that they expand upon and use their skillset to the fullest, software developers can be more productive and help the company achieve its goals.
One way to improve developer utilization is through automation. To ensure that employees are spending time productively, many companies have turned to automated testing and continuous integration to reduce development time and improve quality control. Automation can help streamline processes such as testing and code reviews, freeing up time for developers to work on more critical tasks.
Regular communication between leadership and developers will help them share vital information that will influence how effectively work gets completed. Some ways to encourage more frequent communication include setting up a system where developers are required to check in with one another and project leads on a regular basis or using a tool like Teams or Slack that makes it easy for developers to communicate with each other in real time. Establishing a system where communication is encouraged and easy to do will help development teams work more effectively together.
There are many other methods for improving developer utilization, depending on the needs and resources of the organization; they may be very simple or quite complex. For example, suppose an underutilized employee has experience with a tech stack that your organization is considering and could benefit significantly from using. In that case, you may want to take advantage of the developer’s available hours to further your research and implementation plans. On the other hand, if your developers are consistently working overtime and you have a significant project backlog or new high-priority project plans, it’s essential to know your current overutilization level and additional resource requirements so you can source the needed staffing level. This may require advanced tracking, analytics, and projections to determine.
Other ways to improve your developer utilization include:
- Reduce work by improving time tracking, meeting, and documentation processes
- Monitor utilization rates across projects and the company
- Use time-tracking software to see how team members use their time online
- Use an enterprise resource management tool to identify over and underutilized resources or skills shortages
By encouraging better utilization of developers, businesses can see greater productivity and innovation.
Improving software developer utilization can significantly impact the bottom line for businesses. With a more productive and efficient workforce, companies can reduce expenses related to employee salaries, benefits, and other overhead costs. Additionally, improved developer productivity can result in faster development and higher-quality products. By ensuring that developers are properly trained and given the opportunity to work on meaningful projects, their skills will continue to grow, and the organization will reap the benefits.
Here are some quick tips to get started with ensuring optimal developer utilization:
- Identify the employee’s core skill set and develop skills metrics that include the skill level of each language/tool and years of experience they have. This will help leaders understand the strengths and weaknesses of their development team and allow them to gauge whether they already have a resource with specific technical expertise on their team.
- Facilitate training and development opportunities that focus on expanding employees’ core skills. This will help teams develop better abilities in areas of need.
- Encourage employees with temporary extra bandwidth to take on additional responsibilities within the company as time allows. This will enable them to use their core skills in new ways and learn more about the company’s operations. Marketing, sales, and employee development can often benefit significantly from their contributions.
- Provide feedback and recognition when employees demonstrate excellence in their core skills area. This will encourage them to keep learning and improving their abilities.