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The McKinsey Developer Productivity Debate
Plus, AI and DevOps, habits of elite engineers, breaking up with microservices, and more.
The debate on measuring developer productivity has arrived - and it’s here to stay.
Consulting giant McKinsey ignited a firestorm after publishing an article titled, “Yes, you can measure software developer productivity.” Industry leadersand picked up the debate that ensued, publishing their official 2-part response via their newsletters, the and .
On this week’s episode of Dev Interrupted, co-host Conor Bronsdon welcomes LinearB co-founder & CEO Ori Keren and, Director of Engineering at Spot AI, to offer their critiques of a debate that has captured the attention of the engineering community: can you measure developer productivity?
Believing the industry to be at a crossroads, Ori and Kelly combine forces to offer their perspective on the debate, sharing why it’s an opportunity for dev teams everywhere to “roll out metrics the right way.”
“I feel strongly that you cannot use a system to measure individual metrics. It's almost like creating an autoimmune system that attacks its own culture.”
(4:00) Initial reaction to the article from McKinsey
(12:30) Highlights from the Orosz & Beck response
(14:30) What Orosz and Beck missed
(23:30) Opportunity to educate the community
(27:30) What's best for the engineering community?
(33:30) How to have this conversation with CEOs & CFOs
(38:00) Why this discourse is "exactly what we needed."
The Download is engineering leadership content we’re reading, watching, and attending that we think you might find valuable.
1. Leverage AI For Developer Velocity
In the era of AI-enhanced code generation, engineering leaders face new pressures to increase developer velocity. While tools like GitHub Copilot significantly boost code productivity, the existing DevOps processes designed for manual code development can hinder progress.
This piece – featuring a guest appearance from our own LinearB co-founder & CEO Ori Keren – argues that to adapt, leaders should consider optimizing foundational development processes through distributed computing and AI-driven test selection, ensure rigorous test automation to maintain quality and address technical debt, and invest in platform engineering for seamless transitions from development to production.
2. Make Sure Your Engineers Have These Habits
A new voice in engineering content, Engineering Codex starts its Substack with a banger on the habits of elite programmers. Highlights include that these engineers prioritize code consistency and understand the importance of context and the role of communication in collaboration.
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3. Do You Need To Break Up With Microservices?
For better or (probably) worse, there's an overwhelming inclination towards complexity, often manifesting in convoluted microservices and distributed systems without a clear justification for their use.
This trend is influenced by a blend of inexperienced developers diving into server-side development, FAANG veterans preaching complex solutions, and venture capital-backed startups hiring rapidly without a clear focus on profitable growth.
Startups that kept their engineering approach simple have performed better, revealing that an obsession with complexity, like prematurely moving to microservices, can be detrimental and that straightforward systems aren't indicative of incompetence.
4. Explain Equity To Your Non-US Employees
Understanding equity practices across borders is pivotal for engineering leaders steering global expansion. In many countries outside the U.S., equity is less prevalent, posing challenges for international business operations. Check out this clip from Kelly Vaughn’s previous appearance on the Dev Interrupted podcast, where she explains how to approach the concept of equity to non-U.S. hires.
5. Mess Around On Code.gov
Need a quick team exercise this week? Code.gov to the rescue. It's the U.S. government's platform for open-source software, offering a repository of reusable code that can enhance efficiency and reduce costs. Engaging with it provides insight into the government's technological priorities and presents potential collaboration opportunities for future initiatives.