Articles

You Have Engineering Metrics. Now What?

by
José Caldeira
June 29, 2022

So, you've decided to use data and metrics to improve your software delivery pipeline, scale your organization, and continuously improve.

But how do you set yourself up for success? 

The truth is that data and metrics are only part of this journey. 

Today I'll explore how to improve your engineering organization with metrics. First, as an organization that already uses goal alignment processes (like OKRs), and then as one that is just getting started on this journey. 

In any case, to continuously improve, the key points to remember are:

  • Be intentional about what to improve.
  • Have clear goals and continuous visibility of where you stand.
  • Dedicate time to improve and know where to invest it. 

Remember that you cannot improve if you don't put consistent investment in doing so. Gains come from consistent effort.

Let's dive in. 

If You Already Have a Goal Alignment Process 

If you already use OKRs or other goal-setting approaches, I recommend that you:

1. Pick One Metric

The first thing you should do is identify one metric you want to improve. Don't go with the most important metric but pick one that is easily actionable (for most of our customers, review time is something that they can tackle easily).

2. Add Engineering Metrics to Your Processes

When you've chosen the metric you want to improve, make sure you're tracking it in your continuous improvement process and use a tool like Athenian to consistently evaluate where you’re at. 

💡 You want to create a habit. Engineering metrics should become part of your existing team's processes. 

Your main goal is to create a continuous feedback and improvement loop that cascades down to the teams:

The Engineering Leader's Process for Continuous Improvement

3. Look Into More Meaningful Metrics

Once your teams are consistently looking at Athenian, regularly discussing the data, and designing improvements, it’s time to look into more meaningful (and often harder) metrics to improve. 

💡 For example, you can start with an easy metric, like code review time, and then move to a more challenging one like CI flakiness or release frequency. 

If You Don't Have a Goal Alignment Process

If you don't use OKRs or other goal-setting approaches, I recommend that you:

1. Define a goal-reviewing cadence

Define your long-term goals and when you want to check their progress (goal review cycle). We recommend doing this quarterly.

2. Define Your Goals

When your goal cycle starts you want to define your goals. 

To do so, take some time with your most influential leaders and look at the data in Athenian's dashboards. Pick one or two metrics that you believe can be changed through the quarter and define what their target should be. 

👉 If you're doing this for the first time, pick an easy goal to achieve. Something like "Reduce Review cycle time from 14 hours to 6 hours". Remember that these goals need to be memorable and actionable. 

3. Review Goals Periodically

Make sure you are continuously monitoring progress and adjusting towards achieving your goals. 

If you have sprints in place, we recommend using your sprints to quickly review how you are in terms of achieving your goals, and what needs to be changed in order to get you there. 

💡Sprint retrospectives are a powerful tool to continuously understand what you can do if you're not improving your engineering efficiency goals.

4. Review Your Goals at The End of The Quarter

Whenever a quarter finishes, it’s time to review your goals and understand what you've achieved. 

An excellent way to do this, depending on the size of your organization, is to conduct a metrics review meeting where all teams present to the whole org., or sub-groups, what they have achieved and how. 

This will foster transparency, openness, and cross-pollination opportunities so that teams can learn with each other.

Whether you do or don't have a continuous improvement process, remember that you must create alignment around goals - this is key to maximizing your organization's effectiveness. 

Use quarterly reviews to discuss bottlenecks and work out improvement points for your Product AND your organization. 

  

If you have any questions or you want to get more strategies on how to improve, let's chat!
Our Engineering Success team will always be available to share their experience with your team.