Chapter 7. Measuring Engineering Productivity

Google is a data-driven company. We back up most of our products and design decisions with hard data. The culture of data-driven decision making, using appropriate metrics, has some drawbacks, but overall, relying on data tends to make most decisions objective rather than subjective, which is often a good thing. Collecting and analyzing data on the human side of things, however, has its own challenges. Specifically, within software engineering, Google has found that having a team of specialists focus on engineering productivity itself to be very valuable and important as the company scales and can leverage insights from such a team.

Why Should We Measure Engineering Productivity?

Let’s presume that you have a thriving business (e.g., you run an online search engine), and you want to increase your business’s scope (enter into the enterprise application market, or the cloud market, or the mobile market). Presumably, to increase the scope of your business, you’ll need to also increase the size of your engineering organization. However, as organizations grow in size linearly, communication costs grow quadratically.1 Adding more people will be necessary to increase the scope of your business, but the communication overhead costs will not scale linearly as you add additional personnel. As a result, you won’t be able to scale the scope of your business linearly to the size of your engineering ...

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