Do you squint when it’s time to measure the productivity in your software development company? If you only tend to objectify work results entirely based on tracked hours in Jira or Azure DevOps, you might be on the wrong path towards measuring productivity. Instead, try to look at the bigger picture and connect the collected data with your company’s Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to really gain insights into what business value your company obtains through achieved releases.
From my experience working in a bespoke software development company I can say that all efforts invested in boosting productivity pay off in the long run and it is worth considering which methods will work for you. As an C-level executive or a team leader, most likely you’ve come across processes or frameworks that bring additional value to your business once implemented. A nice example of this are Agile practices such as Scrum for software development as it structures big projects by diving them into iterations lasting one or two weeks. However, there are other small-scale things you can do to make your working environment a more productive one. Explore thse productivity boosters and see what works best for you:
1. Encourage Procrastinators to Eat That Frog
Well, not literally. I mean, you can serve fried frogs instead of chicken at your next company gathering, but I doubt that this will get you any further on your productivity. Eating the frog is a metaphor for confronting the most intimidating task first. In his famous book, author Brian Tracy writes about how good the rest of work goes after that heaviest chunk of unpleasant work is behind us, e.g. filling in a spreadsheet, writing that email etc.
Tracy also advises people who wish to be more productive and less procrastinating to block their time in multiple blocks with breaks between them. This way, our brains receive little rewards (pleasant breaks) in between and are rewarded with motivation to continue working. You can try the Pomodoro technique and divide your workday into 25min intervals (pomodoros), followed by 5min breaks. After four or five pomodoros, you can take a longer break of 15 or 20min. By creating a sense of urgency, this method pushes you to mobilise your creative powers and be productive without letting distractions get in the way.
2. Implement Quiet Hours on a Company Level
While we’re still on the topic of time management, here is the next trick you can try in your office – the Rule of Quiet Hours. We at Dreamix decided to give it a shot last year and were amazed at the benefits his simple technique gave us. Essentially, the main idea is to shut all notifications and distractions and concentrate on your core work tasks for the day, be it coding, business calls or analytics. The magic happens when we allow ourselves to have a couple of uninterrupted hours to boost our productivity.
Science discoveries also play a role in this. As it turns out, silence can regenerate the brain cells of mice – just two silent hours a day helped them develop new brain cells in the hippocampus, a brain region responsible for learning processes, memory and emotion regulation. Neuroscientists also claim that our brains need those quiet hours to process all the incoming information, internalise it and evaluate it according to priority tasks. So with the ultimate goal of increasing productivity, quiet hours seem like a manageable routine to try out.
3. Raise Individual Autonomy and Responsibility
Let’s face it – we have evolved as species both because of our ability to work in teams and as individuals. As time flew by and the Western cultures grew fond of individuality and self-efficacy, it became clear that each employee values a degree of autonomy. According to Entrepreneur, autonomy serves as power that shapes the work environment in such a way that it promotes ultimate performance and productivity.
However, with more autonomy comes greater responsibility, so you should surround yourself with professionals who are eager to show commitment and accountability. Some of the things you can do immediately to encourage more autonomy are to invest in self-paced online learning courses that would benefit the whole company. For instance, purchase a Scrum fundamental training to embrace an agile approach to software development. As an executive or a team lead, try to exhibit trust towards your teammates. This will provide them with the necessary basis for optimal productivity at work.
4. Automate Daunting Everyday Tasks
One of the milestones you have to overcome on your way to achieve higher productivity rates is through automating day-to-day business operations. At first, aim to automate tasks that are time-consuming, repetitive and that require manual labour. Doing this will save your employees lots of energy that can be allocated to more meaningful tasks – an overall boost in your company’s productivity. Get feedback from you colleagues on which tasks require most time and take their opinions into account when deciding what to automate.
Use the fact that you are a software development company as your advantage and encourage initiatives such as tool development. You can delegate this to enthusiastic junior developers or to those who are between projects. For example, our company developed an internal vacation tool that is already in exploitation and saved us both time and money as we no longer have to fill out paper forms. One software developer did most of the work with assistance from his teammates and now that the system is fully functional, we’re more than happy that sick leaves, vacations and home office requests are automated.
5. Refactor Code Early On During Development
To refine your code means to restructure it without essentially modifying how it behaves externally. Keep in mind that the most optimal time for developers to refactor their code is before any major features or updates as this will improve both code quality and will make it easier for future developers to familiarize themselves with existing code. As a rule of thumb, you can follow the JIT (Just In Time) Refactoring which considers refactoring code right after it works properly based on three main code features: its readability, repetitiveness and reusability.
This can happen using various techniques include refactoring by abstraction (aka Push-Up/Pull-Down method) or using composting method (extraction and inline). Another popular technique is the Red-Green-Refactor, a technique from test-driven Agile development. Essentially, Red requires you to stop and decide what you will develop, Green signifies that your code passes basic testing and during the final Refactor stage you think of improvements. Remember, fixing your code in advance makes the need for later refactoring redundant and allows you to be more productive.