engineering KPIs

When you’re leading a department that has a reputation for being a ‘black box,’ putting together a board deck comes with a unique set of challenges. To provide visibility to the board and executive stakeholders, you’ll need to choose clear, objective data and present it with the necessary context. Data is the key — it’s the language of business, an important tool for building a shared, fact-based understanding of the state of your department. 

But how exactly should data be used in your engineering KPIs (key performance indicators) for the optimal benefit in a board meeting?

Why is data important in your engineering KPIs?

Classic inclusions to the board deck, like lists of features or incidents, can be helpful, but they don’t tell the whole story. While a list of features can indicate what your engineering team accomplished in a specific quarter, it doesn’t reveal process issues that need to be addressed, and it’s a disservice to your team when you’re unable to highlight the many challenges they’ve overcome.

In the case of incident reports, you might be able to shine a light on errors in the codebase. However, the lack of context doesn’t reveal how well your team is dealing with the issues.

Choosing the right objective KPIs will help you tell a more complete story and provide clarity to the board. 

Think of the other departments at your organisation for a moment. A marketing leader, for example, is able to identify all Marketing Qualified Leads (MQL) in a specific quarter and quantify how many of those leads have converted through the sales funnel. Thanks to these objective numbers, the marketing leader can measure their department’s activities and communicate effectively at the board meeting.

What do you need to consider?

Whatever KPIs you choose for your next board meeting, make sure to be judicious – too much information can be counterproductive – and to calibrate your data to the appropriate level of precision. The board generally doesn’t need to see your most granular data unless you’re digging into those numbers to illustrate a particular point. 

You should also consider what the KPIs you choose reveal about each other. Putting key metrics in conversation with each other — for instance, highlighting data on speed alongside data on quality — can add dimension to your presentation and paint a fuller picture for the board.

Which software engineering KPIs should you choose? 

The right engineering KPIs are highly dependent on your organisation, so there isn’t a definitive list! The KPIs should be relevant to your company’s size and stage, as well as your department’s current challenges and goals. 

However, if you’re looking for some inspiration, continue on to see the countdown of KPIs that we will are valuable to your board and engineering team:

5. Incident frequency

Incident frequency is a count of the average number of incidents in a given period of time, and it helps you demonstrate code quality. It’s useful to assess the speed at which your engineering team gets things to market in tandem with incident frequency, so you can ensure that you’re not sacrificing quality for speed and that your team isn’t spending an inordinate amount of time fixing bugs.

4. Cycle time

Cycle time is engineering’s speedometer, a close approximation to time to market, which measures how quickly your team is able to deliver on an idea. Cycle time can help you have more informed conversations about the speed at which your team is able to deliver value for the business.

3. On-time delivery

By stacking up actual deliveries against delivery commitments, you can demonstrate how well engineering is meeting its commitments with on-time delivery. If on-time delivery is falling short of expectations, you can use this data to advocate for additional resources or for re-evaluating and re-prioritizing the roadmap to match capacity.

2. Allocations

This KPI can help your team understand the delta between strategic priorities and where your team’s resources are actually going. Looking at allocations can help you rebalance your efforts and expenditures to ensure that key projects are getting the appropriate attention.

1. Ramp time 

Ramp time is a measurement of how quickly new hires in your team become productive and can be measured in months or, hopefully, weeks. In a volatile job market, you need to do more than simply hire good people – you need to ensure that they’re getting up to speed quickly and efficiently. When they’re fully onboarded, they’ll be adding value to the team, which is important to both their satisfaction with their new role and the business’s bottom line. 

Remember, the goal of a board meeting is for you to share your team’s challenges and successes and offer visibility into your engineering organisation. The board can then offer you advice and help with key strategic decisions. With the right data, you’ll be able to provide a more complete snapshot of your engineering team so you can facilitate more productive conversations and derive more value from your interactions with the board. 

To learn more about how engineering leaders can leverage data for their board meetings and organisation, speak to a Code Climate Velocity specialist.

And don’t miss our seminar on Wednesday 27 July 2022, Using DORA Metrics to Boost Engineering Performance. You can find out more here.


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