Measuring productivity

Disclaimer: Each company has different tech stack and delivery challenges, but the methodology for measuring and improving productivity applies equally.

In a previous role, I was hired to “Improve Delivery Flow” (ref Team Topologies) across an org of about ~400, with an emphasis on process improvements, platform capabilities and debt-recovery work.


Delivery in the company slowed down over the years and they needed to find a way to unblock and speed it up to the "good old days". Anecdotal observations showed that:

  • Engineers hated the toolchain and were waiting for ages for local and remote builds.
  • There was very low confidence that releases would go without failure which resulted in expensive regression test cycles.
  • Deployments required manual intervention due to legacy interpretation of PCI compliance.
  • The slow speed to meant that merges became bigger and large merge conflicts were common.
  • Product managers had to wait until late in the process to see features work end-to-end.


To improve something, one must first measure it, and we found that DORA is incomplete as it focuses too much on CD and not enough on teams getting shit done. SPACE as a framework proved valuable but needed to be interpreted for our needs. We landed on:

  • Satisfaction: Internal Developer NPS and CSAT
  • Performance: Change Failure rate (and Product Management satisfaction implied)
  • Activity: Merge & Deploy Frequency and Cycle time (looking at the merge and deploy size was interesting too)
  • Collaboration: Only measure in the platform by looking at incoming Service Requests and adoption of services
  • Efficiency: Qualitative measurement of Toil from Developer Interviews (mainly Staff and Principal engineers)

North Star

We encouraged product, platform, and sub-speciality (aka practice) teams to calibrate their improvement projects to the above measurements working towards the following north star metrics:

Year 1:

  • Code integrated within 10 min to Test
  • Non-prod provisioned within hours
  • Refactored team ownership scope to enable deploying independently where relevant

Year 2

  • Code integrated within 10 min to Prod
  • Prod can be provisioned within hours
  • Refactored team ownership scope to enable deploying independently where relevant

This led to projects such as:

  • Build automation improvement to provide developer feedback on merge within 10 minutes
  • Provide self-service build for teams refactoring (fracturing) their ownership scope
  • Create base images for non-prod environment to facilitate automated provisioning
  • Reduce manual regression test cycle to hours by removing unneeded tests

Key learnings

  • Using a framework like SPACE forced us to think about what productivity means for us.
  • Setting a North Star for our tech strategy enabled teams to rally around the goal
  • Defining what productivity meant enabled us to have effective conversations about improving delivery with stakeholders such as the CEO and Product Management
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