The task at hand: brief your executives and the board on the progress you’ve made this quarter. Leaders and board members want to see what it is your team is doing, or whether and why you are or are not doing whatever is in their head. This can be tough when it comes to engineering. You may know how your team is doing, and you know what they’re doing, but it can be a challenge to present this to the business and board members. In this series, I’ll take you through five slides topics that should answer questions even before they’re asked. For this post we’ll cover slide topic #4, Productivity.
Slide Topic #4: Productivity
Questions to answer (that your board may be thinking, even if they haven’t asked): Is the team working hard? How fast are things getting done? Why aren’t we doing more or what are we doing to increase efficiency? Have we gotten more or less productive since work from home started? Sales measures productivity, why can’t these guys?
The board and executive team don’t have the same instinct as you do into the “productivity” of your team. To be clear, the word productivity can mean different things to different people. However, regardless of what you think of it or how hard it is to define, articulating macro productivity can make a big difference in their perception of your abilities as a manager and your team. So make sure to evidence your command over the efficiency of your team. How is your team generally improving? What’s standing in your way? If your team was just sent home to be remote for the last 100+ days, for example, your board is likely wondering, “are we getting faster or slower?”
Often, engineering leaders will tell us they would rather not run a slide like this because unlike sales, it’s hard to provide a fully objective measure like dollars sold. For example, It’s true that very low level metrics like lines of code committed don’t portray a coherent picture of the real work that you’re seeing day in and day out, but instead potentially coding style. But higher level metrics like JIRA issues resolved, PRs merged, or cycle time can be least common denominator activity indicators of that work and general organizational and process health and will serve you well to get your point across. Think about which metrics make the most sense to track for your team, that convey general sense of activity leading to progress, and what you want to convey to the board as being most important. Keep in mind that the executive team and board may not have as deep of an understanding for sausage making that is Agile processes, tools, and how your team uses them.
While there is no perfect measure of productivity or team health by any means, and many of these can be gamed, metrics are not meant to be all-encompassing, and they are not meant to be perfect (plus, gaming would require a large, concerted effort as a team scales). The point of them is to show trends and least common denominator heartbeats on health and activity. You and your board will want to know that if there’s a significant increase or decrease in activity, it’s something you are aware of and keeping an eye on, and ultimately taking steps to improve. This becomes especially important to the business during times of turbulence (both to the business and in the world more broadly), and for teams who operate remotely (as is most often the case today).
Just make sure you choose ones that make sense for the story and things you really care about.
Some of the topics you can think about including are:
Potential Productivity Metrics
- Cycle time
- Tickets/Issues resolved
- PRs merged or reviewed
- Deployment frequency
- Sprint completion rate
- Story points completed
Specific Highlighted Issues
- Any recent productivity issues or trends worth calling out
- Potential solutions
Download a Template for the Five Slides to Show Your Board!Download the Template
Being data-driven about the way you present to the leadership team and board will help you align the work your engineering teams do with the goals of the business, and foster trust and support for you.
As your group scales, it can become difficult to aggregate all the metrics necessary to properly build a presentation like the one above. It’s important to keep a steady state of communication with your engineering managers or directors to keep a pulse on things. But there are also tools to help you automate this process. Engineering Management Platforms (EMP) like Jellyfish aggregate engineering signals with business context to give better visibility into deliverable progress, product quality, investments, and productivity of the entire org. To learn more about EMPs or Jellyfish check out our site.