Should You Hire More Software Engineers or Better Manage the Ones You Have?

That technology is here to stay is an obvious duh. If and how well-prepared companies are to deal with the constant need to increase investments in technology, that’s not as simple. Another obvious axiom is that software engineers and developers are highly valuable resources. Weather having more or putting the ones you have to better use is the best approach, that is less obvious.

According to a report published in 2018 by Stripe, the majority of 1, 000 + developers, technical leaders and C-level executives polled felt that access to developers is more important than access to capital. However, the issue might not be about how many developers you have available but about how they use their time and skills. With 17 million developers active in 2018, their study points to approximately $ 300 billion Global GDP loss from developer inefficiency annually.

As an engineering manager, you should worry about developer productivity

Although more than half of the study participants reported that the number of developers in their company has gone up, a striking majority of higher management representatives confirmed that increasing developer productivity is a priority.

When looking to increase developer productivity for your team, a logical step would be to first have some kind of insight into what the team is spending their time on. The picture might look different for your team, but the study estimated that 21 hours of developers’ and software engineers’ weekly work hours could be put to better use than dealing with maintenance issues (debugging, refactoring, “bad” code, etc.) or addressing “technical debt.” Luckily, what used to feel like an impossible mission in the past is now within reach and a range of tools that help measure developer productivity is available to engineering managers.

What would help? Try clarifying priorities, responsibilities, and long-term goals

Although addressing some of these time-wasters can be harder to fix, a few other significant issues identified as negatively impacting developer productivity have the potential to become easier fixes: things like leadership’s prioritization of projects and tasks (or lack thereof) or changing priorities that usually results in discarded code have the potential of being addressed by engineering managers.

Other than directly affecting a project’s success, all that wasted time is taxing from a moral point of view also – it becomes a challenge to stay motivated and productive when priorities keep changing and efforts are spent on code that is never used (almost three-thirds of survey participants mentioned this as an issue).

It not surprising then that the large majority (81%) of respondents also report feeling overloaded by work – we wonder how much of this feeling is actually frustrating. It’s not necessarily that your engineers would need or want to work less but rather that they would appreciate spending their time on projects that make sense i.e. projects that have a clear purpose and are well-planned. This type of project has the potential to create a lot more enthusiasm and have the great benefit of leaving team members energized, more creative, and focused rather than frustrated and drained.

Where are we headed?

With the majority of respondents resented having to spend a lot of their time on legacy systems (78 %) and technical debt (76%), it is not surprising that technology companies are looking at making investments in infrastructure and R&D a priority for the immediate future. In addition, the Internet of Things, artificial intelligence, and API services are also on the priority list but with a lower level of urgency.

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