Measuring developer performance

by Rasmus Hvidberg Josiassen 26. December 2011 21:28

Some developers are more productive than others. And some developers are much more productive! Not just two or three times as productive, but much more productive! Some studies (for example Sackman, Hal, Erickson and Grant) claim that the factor is ten (and as a factor 28 in how fast the developers can write code). I don’t know if the factor is 10 or 28 – and I’m sure that it’s not about how fast you can write code, but I know, that the factor is big enough to make it worthwhile to dive into what makes great developers and how you can measure performance.

There have been many attempts in trying to simplify the task of measuring performance and finding great developers. Performance has for example been measured by the number of lines of code the developer produced, how many bugs he or she introduced into the code or how many function points the developer delivers per month.

But the number of code-lines does not say anything about the quality or the features delivered. You can write hundreds of lines of code a day, but if the code has poor quality and introduces a lot of bugs, is unreadable to the poor developer who has to maintain it and has bad performance it wasn’t very productive, was it? Then you’d rather have the ten lines of code, which just did the job right!

The number of bugs introduced isn’t a very good measurement either. Of course fewer bugs are better than a lot of bugs – but developers that code makes mistakes. A developer who does nothing makes no mistakes. And the developer can write fantastic code with no bugs – but if he or she didn’t understand the business and implemented the wrong solution, then it really doesn’t matter how many bugs the code had.

And finally Function Points (my favourite aversion) does not measure productivity. It measures features and does not take into account if the code is readable, bug-free, or implements the architecture. For example you would get a lower function point per man month score if you’d actually implemented a SOA or did a reasonable amount of layering in your code than if you just called the database from the GUI.

If one combines these measurements - and add others like the amount of documentation, compliance to standards and guidelines and so forth – you might end up with a measurement that made a little sense. But it still wouldn’t tell you anything about how well the business needs where met, how easy the software was to maintain or to which extend it implemented the right architecture.

I fully understand the need for measuring how well the individual developer is performing. How else can the organization hire and develop the right people? But since you get what you measure, introducing oversimplified measurements of performance does more harm than good to the productivity of the developers.

So if you need to understand the performance of the individual developer (and you do need that if you want to increase the productivity!), then look at his or hers code and see how well structured, readable, maintainable and architecture-compliant it is. Go sit with the developer and do some pair-programming, listen to the developer’s communication with fellow-developers, business-people and testers. Discuss best practices in processes, tools and principles. In essence: Understand how well the developer is performing instead of implementing simple measurements.

Software development is a craft. And you have to rely on the craftsmanship of great developers to get great performance. Introducing simple measurements of developer performance is a poor substitute for real understanding of this craft and what makes great craftsmen. So… go introduce that understanding in your organization instead.

Tags: , ,

Comments (42) -

Tai Hemrick
Tai Hemrick United States
1/2/2012 9:24:20 AM #

I'm not quite sure how to say this; you made it etrxmeely easy for me!


Entrepreneur United States
1/6/2012 2:56:49 PM #

It's the first time when i've seen your site. I can see lots of hard work has gone in to it. It's actually good.


Kathy Pryer
Kathy Pryer United States
1/7/2012 1:05:22 AM #

thanks, very well written post, found it through a random google search and i shared it on my digg account


money United States
1/7/2012 7:52:13 AM #

Absolutely! I am a novice but these sound like very wise words Bryony! Congratulations and wishing you continual success, I hope I can aspire to keeping my audience engaged as you do so well. Thanks for the captivating read : )


Suzette Hastin
Suzette Hastin United States
1/7/2012 8:19:09 AM #

good site!! You should start many more. I love all the info provided. I will stay tuned.


Marketing United States
1/7/2012 1:56:15 PM #

This is a really good article, we are a new SEO services and SMO company and I would personally like our customers to follow this before considering us, Although we would fall down on the 'how long has your company been operating' question, a company that considers these factors is definitely a company worth working with


business United States
1/7/2012 3:31:50 PM #

I really like reading all these comments on this site. Thank you for making such a cool place to go online.


Praca Kielce
Praca Kielce United States
1/8/2012 10:19:12 AM #

Wow, this paragraph is pleasant, my sister is analyzing these kinds of things, so I am going to let know her.


Roseann Psuty
Roseann Psuty United States
1/8/2012 10:27:16 AM #

This is the best site for anyone who desires to find out about this subject. You notice so much its nearly onerous to argue with you (not that I truly would want...HaHa). You undoubtedly put a brand new spin on a subject thats been wrote about for years. Nice stuff, simply nice!


Kristel Boomhower
Kristel Boomhower United States
1/8/2012 7:28:36 PM #

Greetings to you. I stumbled on your personal webpage here basically surfing around the internet. I enjoyed the amount of time and energy you took to contribute some ideas with your visitors. Keep up the fine job!


entrepreneur United States
1/10/2012 1:03:32 PM #

Hello! It is for the firs time reaching this blog and i found some interesting posts. Reading them I was asking myself some questions. Why some bloggers are working so hard to put usefull information for the public and in the end they realized the compensation is too small? Is it worth it? The people who read this posts understand the volume of work necessary to mentain a blog alive? I really hope so.


Tona Mcglothern
Tona Mcglothern United States
1/13/2012 4:07:26 AM #

Very good site thank you so much for your time in publishing the posts for all of us to learn about.


Yvette Swisher
Yvette Swisher United States
1/13/2012 4:47:25 AM #

mm.. bookmarked Wink


Brittni Mcconico
Brittni Mcconico United States
1/13/2012 5:16:10 AM #

I found some good info in your site and bookmarked to visit again . Thanks.


directory United States
1/14/2012 7:11:19 PM #

Particularly interesting cheers, It is my opinion your trusty visitors may well want considerably more items of this nature continue the excellent effort.


Shelli Colberg
Shelli Colberg United States
1/14/2012 7:12:57 PM #

I do not even know how I ended up here, but I thought this post was wonderful. I don't know who you are but definitely you're going to a famous blogger if you are not already Cheers!


steve United States
1/17/2012 6:31:34 AM #

thanks for this


Writing a Will
Writing a Will United States
1/18/2012 7:28:11 PM #

This is very attention-grabbing, You are a very skilled blogger. I have joined your rss feed and look ahead to looking for more of your magnificent post. Also, I've shared your web site in my social networks!


Carroll Perron
Carroll Perron United States
1/19/2012 8:44:36 AM #

thanks, very well written post, found it through a random google search and i shared it on my digg account


Nannie Kunicki
Nannie Kunicki United States
1/20/2012 9:53:51 AM #

Really good site thank you so much for your time in writing the posts for all of us to learn about.


Entrepreneur United States
1/21/2012 9:57:15 AM #

I'm surprised I hadn't read about this until just now. Glad I discovered this post. Thanks!


furniture United States
1/21/2012 5:43:40 PM #

Write more, thats all I have to say. Literally, it seems as though you relied on the video to make your point. You obviously know what youre talking about, why throw away your intelligence on just posting videos to your site when you could be giving us something informative to read?


Virgil Eckmann
Virgil Eckmann United States
1/22/2012 3:30:53 PM #

I  regard something really  special in this website .


Myung Arrisola
Myung Arrisola United States
1/24/2012 8:47:51 AM #

Hmm Well I was just searching on yahoo and just came across your site, generally I just only visit websites and retrieve my required info but this time the useful information that you posted in this post urged me to post here and appreciate your diligent work. I just bookmarked your site. Thank you again.


Nan Chadderton
Nan Chadderton United States
1/25/2012 7:07:05 PM #

You have lots of useful pointers on this site. This is a well written article that I have bookmarked for future reading. Have a fun.


portable United States
1/26/2012 3:34:12 AM #

Attention Blogger! I discovered your website on Google and as an SEO specialist I have an offer for you that I think you will find very useful. There's a WordPress addon that automatically does SEO for your website for higher rankings, it's a 1-click setup that's not expensive at all. It will help you make more money from your website and drive more daily traffic to your pages. Click my username to take a look. Thanks for reading, be sure to at least check out try the 7 day trial.


Essie Nagarajan
Essie Nagarajan United States
1/26/2012 11:05:33 AM #

It is highly helpful for me. Huge thumbs up for this site post!


reusable diapers
reusable diapers United States
2/12/2012 7:19:15 AM #

Does SF reset the statistics only once (upon setup), or are the statistics reset regularly?


Maud Fouraker
Maud Fouraker United States
2/12/2012 9:11:38 AM #

Why would we want to pay for something when it is free? Just donate money to the guy so he can pay his bills and buy a decent car. What is it with everyone and greed in this effed-up world? Get over the money.


Dong Soibelman
Dong Soibelman United States
2/12/2012 9:24:49 PM #

You've got a great blog here! would you like to produce some invite posts on my site?


Kati Pila
Kati Pila United States
2/14/2012 1:01:46 AM #

You have a lot of useful pointers on this site. This is a well composed article that I have bookmarked for future reading. Have a fun.


reusable diapers
reusable diapers United States
2/15/2012 8:11:33 AM #

Grady, same here. There was never a link between which keywords were used in search and who used them, so not sure the "real" reason Google limited the data. Understand the privacy concerns, but we could never connect the dots anyway!


Roma Drewski
Roma Drewski United States
3/10/2012 7:47:22 PM #

Jak jedna z najgłupszych nazw produktów Apple jakie kiedykolwiek wymyślono. Nowy" w marketingu kojarzy mi się ze zmianą producenta tego samego towaru. Trochę jakby głęboko w ziemi zakopali Stefana własnymi rękami...


Sonja Buffalo
Sonja Buffalo United States
3/26/2012 10:54:43 PM #

Wow! This could be one particular of the most beneficial blogs We've ever arrive across on this subject. Actually Excellent. I am also an expert in this topic therefore I can understand your hard work.


sex toys
sex toys United States
3/27/2012 6:50:10 AM #

Hello, This is a really nice looking site. Are you a website designer or did someone make this lovely design for you?


Timothy Tredwell
Timothy Tredwell United States
4/4/2012 2:53:54 AM #

This will help me out with my site alot.


Annice Romay
Annice Romay United States
4/4/2012 5:44:05 PM #

I am on LTD with MetLife. I was approved thru 2014. I sent my medical info thru 10/11. My case manager told me that I didn't need to send my medical info anymore for another year. I rec'd a letter yesterday, saying, "we are reviewing my claim for LTD. We need current medical info to complete their determination for benefit consideration." Now, I am in the process of a divorce and his family sent me an email stating that they was going to turn me in... I need a lawyer as soon as possible.


Ammie Zaman
Ammie Zaman United States
4/14/2012 12:49:29 PM #

It's a German built model that doesn't follow exactly the US model year look


Olevia Holtzen
Olevia Holtzen United States
4/15/2012 2:14:57 AM #

Thank you! My spouse and I enjoyed this post. I am curious as to what you think of EBS?


Roxanna Layden
Roxanna Layden United States
4/21/2012 10:24:09 PM #

You have a lot of useful pointers on this site. This is a well written article that I have bookmarked for future reading. Have a fun.


carucioare pentru copii
carucioare pentru copii United States
4/30/2012 10:27:27 PM #

good Kharma keeps the wheel turning...


Donya Heang
Donya Heang United States
8/13/2012 11:09:26 PM #

This rings true for me in every paragraph. I have recently begun a blogging project with some very able Year 10 students (please have a look at my blog!) and there has been quite a lot of resistance along the lines of "What's the point?"


Pingbacks and trackbacks (2)+

Add comment

  Country flag

  • Comment
  • Preview

About the author

I'm a software craftsman who ended up as manager and now is trying to get a grip on what makes good developers and how to establish a high performing developer environment in regards to people, processes and tools.

LinkedIn Profile


Month List