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Developer Productivity: the Inner Dev Loop & Quantitative Metrics

Kay James
February 29, 2024 | 7 min read
Developer Productivity

Podcast Interview with Guru Kamat

“Happy and highly productive developers are the key to success for any organization big or small.”
Guru Kamat
Guru Kamat
Co-Founder of Neurelo

Developer productivity not only shapes the quality of products but also cultivates an engineering culture that retains top talent. But, while there are many tips out there on how to boost productivity, there’s not as much focus on boosting PLUS stabilizing your developer productivity for long-term success. In this blog, we delve into the enlightening discussions from the Livin' On the Edge podcast, featuring our latest guest, Guru Kamat, Co-Founder of Neurelo.

"A strong foundation, a focus on developer experience, and reliability of platforms are critical factors in supporting developer productivity," shares Guru.

With over 20 years of experience, Guru has seen it all. From scaling small startup teams to being an integral part of leading technology companies such as Palo Alto and Stripe–Guru has experienced a variety of environments to truly master the art of developer productivity.

Now, as a Co-Founder of Neurelo, he’s taken the developer productivity focus to the next level, helping to build up Neurelo’s Cloud Data API platform, which is infused with the power of AI automation and designed to transform the way developers interact with their databases. Here are Guru’s main takeaways to help any tech leader to not just boost developer productivity but build a long-lasting and sustainable developer team to stand the test of time.

S3 Ep9: Developer Productivity- the Inner Dev Loop & Metrics Feat. Guru Kamat

Get In(ner) the Loop: Less Time on the Dev Outer Loop

Developers' work can be categorized into two main areas: the inner loop and the outer loop. The inner loop involves coding, building, and testing, which are engaging and intellectually stimulating tasks that include work developers actually do toward building the product.

On the other hand, the outer loop includes activities like integrating, releasing, deploying, and monitoring the product. The outer dev loop is more of a focus on the work that is involved in actually taking things into production.

In general, to improve developer productivity, the goal should be to increase the time spent in the inner loop and reduce the time spent in the outer loop, as this leads to higher productivity and better product outcomes.

"Your focus should be on reducing the time spent on the outer loop of work, meaning deployment, monitoring, and meetings. And on the flip side, focus on increasing the time spent on the inner loop of work, so coding, building, and testing,"
shares Guru

Guru mentions that often, top companies who do this successfully ‘try to have this be a 70/30 or 75/25 ratio,’ where 70-7% of their time is spent on the inner loop and only 25-30% of the time is spent on the outer loop.

“The closer you can get toward that kind of ratio, the better. It all starts with having conversations with your developers to understand their true pain points,” shares Guru.

Measuring Developer Productivity: Both Sides of the Coin

After that, build out a holistic approach to measuring developer productivity around specific qualitative and quantitative metrics. You need both to truly apply a holistic approach. Think of quantitative data, such as the velocity or frequency of code releases. Other quantitative examples you could consider tracking are: code discoverability, build times, unit tests, and confidence levels. By focusing on these metrics, organizations can identify pain points and inefficiencies, allowing them to streamline processes and provide developers with the tools and resources they need to be more productive.

But that only paints one part of the picture. You also need qualitative metrics to successfully judge your team’s developer productivity. An example of qualitative metrics are any human and emotional metrics, such as developer happiness.

“Look- there’s a very high correlation between developer satisfaction and happiness with the product outcomes and how productive, happy, and engaged your developers are,”
shares Guru

To measure productivity metrics that aren’t as easily quantifiable, Guru advises regularly checking in with your developer team, even if that means having skip-level conversations where you’re meeting with junior devs, middle management, and more. Establish a good understanding of what your developers feel about what the challenges are, where the inefficiencies are, where the friction is, where your teams are spending a lot of their productive time and unproductive time, and what generally excites them.

Leaders should prioritize empathy and competence, build strong relationships with their teams, and provide opportunities for growth and development. Happy and satisfied developers are more likely to produce high-quality work and contribute to the success of the organization.

The Foundation & Platform Reliability Matters

To scale a product successfully and reach developer productivity peak performance, it is essential to have a strong foundation. This means ensuring that the product's architecture, codebase, and infrastructure are well-designed and robust. A solid foundation allows for smoother scaling and reduces the need for constant rework or fixes. Guru highlights that investing time and effort in building a strong foundation upfront pays off in the long run.

Guru also notes that the reliability of platforms is also key when it comes to improving developer productivity. As a technology leader, ensure your platforms and tools used by your developer team are highly available and reliable to properly instill confidence in your developers. Reliable tools and a strong foundation allow your developers to build and deploy applications without worrying about frequent downtime or failures. It goes without saying, but it’s worth noting nonetheless–reliable, consistent platforms contribute to a smoother development process and enable developers to focus on their core tasks!

In the end, we all know developer productivity is a critical factor in the success of any organization. By focusing on the right holistic metrics, focusing on the inner developer loop, building a strong foundation, and creating a culture that attracts and retains top talent–you’ll see your developer productivity not only improve but stabilize. With the right tools, processes, and support; developers can thrive and deliver exceptional results much like many of Guru’s past teams.

For more insights on the Kubernetes world, APIs, and developer experience, visit our podcast.