The current state of engineering deliveries

How to eliminate key delivery challenges for software developers and engineers

Dan Haroldsen
© Shutterstock / mentalmind

How can engineers become more agile, more collaborative, and more effective in delivering complex projects within short time frames? This article discusses how to eliminate the delivery challenges for software developers and engineers, the current state of engineering delivery, and the need for transparency.

In a tech landscape riddled with unprecedented growth, working efficiently has never been more pertinent. The pandemic has forced many to accelerate projects—without compromising on quality—in order to address new and often unexpected needs of the business. Additionally, this has been exacerbated by the shift to remote work. For organisations to continue to be agile, especially in a remote environment, they have to keep abreast of entire processes, manage workflows and ensure their team members are set up for success.

So, how can organisations maintain efficiency in the face of challenging circumstances, both in the short term as we navigate the effects of the pandemic, and long into the future?

Chances are, your team has a good pulse on where they’d like to improve. It’s core to their identity as engineers—we’ve found that the natural state of an engineer is to be productive and engaged. But the reality is that with very little insight or hard data, they struggle to know where to start. This leads them to tackle too many initiatives, scattering any potential impact. So, where should they start?

The key is to augment your team’s keen intuition with objective, data-driven insights to help them not only identify their biggest chances of success but to also provide the positive feedback they need to fuel their continuous improvement engine.

For engineers to be more agile, more collaborative, and more effective in delivering complex projects within short time frames, we need to help them uncover roadblocks, identify improvements, and accurately manage the workflows of both individuals and entire teams.

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The current state of engineering deliveries

Without having insights into each stage of the engineering workflow, many organisations are left to balance the equation with disparate, often inactionable data. When productivity falls, they’re unable to determine the cause—whether their engineers are spending excessive time in meetings, being pulled away from core responsibilities, dealing with late-changing and ambiguous business requests, or trapped by inefficient workflows. As a result, many have no set standard for how to optimize project delivery.

For many engineers and managers alike, reporting issues or learnings back to project leads via email has become a necessary evil. This is unhelpful as crucial data is often lost or not measured at all. If engineering teams don’t have visibility into things like code commits, churn, time helping others, responsiveness to pull requests, and more, subjective feelings and anecdotes come in to fill the gaps—not reflecting the full engineering story.

Additionally, managers could also be using the wrong metrics to help their engineers thrive. Imagine a scenario where an engineer is deemed to be highly productive because they are measured by how many lines of code they have written in a day, when in fact, it may be far more impactful and efficient for an engineer to have created high-performant code in as few lines as possible. This is an inaccurate measure of an engineer’s impact on a project — and will skew the overall understanding of how that engineer is contributing to the team workflow.

In my experience, having no central place to collate feedback, and no outlined framework for reporting challenges, causes engineering projects to lack clarity, and engineers find it difficult to visualize and report on progress. It’s easy for workflow changes to spiral out of control, and complaints or performance issues to get lost. This results in confusion, and in the worst case, delays to delivering projects and lost revenue. Beyond this, it may even be impossible to effectively learn from challenges and improve things for next time.

Transparency through technology

To overcome these challenges, transparency is key at every step. For example, having visibility into the human interactions that occur during the software development process and using data from a project insight tool like Jira can remove blind spots. This means that everyone involved can understand how they and their colleagues are progressing against their goals, where they are in the timeline and, perhaps most importantly, where roadblocks are occurring. Then, common bottlenecks can be identified and processes put in place to overcome them.

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Data for good

Ad-hoc email updates, self-reporting or broad and generic insights shared at the end of a project are not effective ways to understand what is and isn’t working. The best way to manage these workflows is by using a sophisticated, engineering insights solution that can provide a granular level of detail – benefiting everyone involved.

An engineering insights solution allows project leads to visualize how a team’s contributions and work patterns function on a daily basis, decreasing project ramp-up time and reducing knowledge silos within engineering departments. In turn, engineers can better understand their own contributions to a project, reducing waste and improving communications with their teams. This encourages holistic collaboration and the sharing of best practices.

Identifying specific inefficiencies and areas of lower performance allows entire teams to be armed with key insights into the engineering process. This level of visibility has an impact on team morale as it helps managers to become true advocates for their engineers – helping them to perform to the best of their ability while removing cultures of blame or deflection.

There is a real need to be able to map the entire engineering workflow. It enables companies to remain productive and profitable—particularly as we navigate a pandemic—and to better support customers through increased product delivery speeds. The ability to standardize processes across engineering teams, and continue to learn iteratively from each project, will aid in delivering greater value to clients, thus cementing their business goals and fending off ever-encroaching competition.

Perhaps more importantly, it will help to instill cohesion amongst the team potentially helping to retain engineering talent as teams feel less frustration around project management. Manulife is a great example, having leveraged an engineering insights solution to get actionable data to improve project management processes and create more time and space for innovation and experimentation. As a result, the company is armed with data enabling them to identify roadblocks and effectively mentor employees to create a world-class engineering organisation—allowing them to deliver better products, faster.

With engineers better able to understand their own work patterns and processes, and how to work more effectively with colleagues, projects will likely come to completion more smoothly—ultimately benefiting the wider business.


Dan Haroldsen

Dan Haroldsen joined Pluralsight just under a year ago and currently works as the SVP of Product Marketing for Pluralsight Flow. Previous to Pluralsight, Dan held roles at Microsoft and Salesforce in a variety of roles including marketing and digital strategy.

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