Sep 08 4 min read

Energized Engineering Excellence

Energized Engineering Excellence

Mike
Koeneke

Both Engineering Managers (EMs) and Tech Leads play an integral role in an engineering organization’s health, ensuring that ICs are working together productively and effectively to deliver software on time. With so many moving parts in the development pipeline, it can be hard for an EM to prioritize and determine where they’re needed the most. This challenge is compounded by the fact that data on their team’s progress is spread across disparate sources, and developers may be reluctant to surface issues or ask for help early enough to avoid blockages that derail sprints. 

Enter Workstreams, a powerful new enhancement to Velocity that streamlines all the info EMs need to help them prepare for the day ahead. Empowering them to be more proactive leaders and fostering confidence in their strategies through reliable metrics, Workstreams helps EMs quickly assess their team’s progress and identify what items need attention first. 

Workstreams dashboard

Phase 1: Spot Risks Immediately 

Workstreams is an interactive dashboard that uses rich visualizations to help EMs quickly gain visibility into a project’s pipeline, highlighting the most at-risk units of work for easy prioritization. Workstreams answers the following questions: 

  1. What work is at risk?

    Workstreams surfaces code and project risks, allowing EMs to immediately see what areas of work require prompt attention. Details pertaining to each PR are delineated in the Issue column, with each team member assigned their own unique avatar. This visual representation of work distribution makes it easy for an EM to identify which team members are assigned to the Issue and determine whether team members are spread too thin, allowing them to effectively redistribute workload so they can protect against burnout. This also makes it easy for an EM to quickly identify which PR or PRs are triggering the Risk Alerts, drill into the code for more information, and create a follow-up plan with the assigned engineer to address the problem.

  1. Are any engineers blocked or task switching?

    While a Jira issue may be labeled “In Progress,” this does not always mean the relevant code is actively being worked on. Workstreams provides clarity by placing Jira status in context with coding activity in a Commit timeline. You can see which issues are in progress and review Commit activity right next to them. If there is a gap in activity for several days, it may signify the engineer is stuck, blocked by another story, or is task switching. This helps EMs identify impediments that could potentially derail sprints and see which Issues are affected. This information can be used to open a constructive dialogue with an engineer in a 1 on 1 or during standup.

  1. What are the largest efforts to the codebase being made this week?

    While Lines of Code may be used to measure the potential effect on a codebase, it’s been proven to be a flawed metric. Updating 50 lines of boilerplate HTML has a much lower impact on the finished project than a 5 line logic change to a core library. Workstreams makes assessing impact easier by using data science to weigh the magnitude of code changes. A proprietary metric, Code Climate’s Impact factors in variables such as the location of edits, the type of code being written (new code vs. updating existing code), and the specific nature of the change (e.g., formatting changes are simpler than logical changes).

An Engineering Manager can use this data to get a sense of the effect of any unit of work. The Activity chart offers a visual representation of code Impact in the form of bubbles — smaller bubbles signify a smaller Impact, while larger bubbles signify a larger Impact. Hovering over a bubble displays the associated Commit, providing EMs with an immediate view of which Commits have the greatest impact on the codebase. 

 

Phase 2: Lead Healthy Standups 

An integral part of the Agile process, standups are meant to provide visibility into each team member’s progress and surface any issues that may need course correction. The reality is, they are often unengaging and unfocused, and some team members are hesitant to raise issues in a public forum. Workstreams provides the structure EMs need to keep standups focused and valuable. It is best used in one of three ways: 

  1. Sort by People

    Instead of waiting for a team member to volunteer to speak next, EMs can save time and surface discussion points efficiently by pulling up an alphabetical list of team members on their screen to run standups in that order.

  2. Sort by Risk

    Standups are short and should prioritize conversations around identifying and mitigating risk. To make the most out of their standups, EMs can sort risks in the Risk column to show PR issues that have triggered a Risk Alert. This helps laser-focus discussion points while prompting team members to share collective knowledge for a successful triage.

  3. Sort by Effort

    The Effort column illustrates the cumulative impact of all PRs pertaining to an issue. This helps highlight large stories that can potentially affect many parts of the codebase. Sorting by Effort, EMs can review the issues with the greatest strategic impact first, ensure they are progressing as expected, and potentially use them as a coaching opportunity for newer engineers.

 

With Workstreams, engineering organizations can approach each day with a more complete understanding of the work that matters most to their current goals, and focus their efforts accordingly. It’s a powerful addition to Velocity, an already robust engineering intelligence platform designed to provide engineering leaders with the end-to-end visibility they need to ship code faster, maintain their competitive edge, and foster a culture of engineering excellence.


Actionable metrics for engineering leaders.

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