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How WorkTango Improved Team Health With Velocity

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By: Code Climate
October 12, 2022

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Founded in 2013 to help companies put their people first, WorkTango uses their Employee Experience Platform to create a high-performing, connected culture, regardless of where employees work or what device they use. Off the back of a strategic merger in 2019 and the recent combining of Kazoo and WorkTango into one brand, the organization is undergoing rapid growth. 

As such, WorkTango needs to have organized and efficient engineering processes that enable productivity and allow the team to react quickly to future changes. 

To start, WorkTango’s CTO Mike Couvillion identified the inefficiency of manually running queries against Github to produce metrics for board meetings, and needed an automated solution. To meet these needs, Couvillion opted for Code Climate Velocity, and very quickly realized its value.

 Improving Feature Prioritization

Using data from Velocity, WorkTango was able to identify a communication issue between their product and engineering departments: some engineers were deciding which features to develop without any input from customers or sales. To address this, leadership restructured the teams and paired each engineering lead with a product manager, who could help guide priorities. From there, each team had the autonomy to operate and plan their sprints however they felt was appropriate.

WorkTango complemented the restructuring with a new set of reporting standards, so they could measure and communicate the effects. By providing these standards and talking about business objectives at all levels, WorkTango’s engineering leadership decentralized this responsibility and provided managers with the tools to demonstrate their progress. They found that the accountability and ownership resonated with managers.

When it comes to metrics, Couvillion uses the Traceability metric to demonstrate how the activities and efforts taken on by engineers are supporting product development when presenting outcomes to stakeholders. Traceability measures the percentage of Pull Requests (PRs) that can be traced back to a Jira issue, and therefore which percentage of PRs are linked to a planned project or initiative. 

After their restructuring, WorkTango saw a 92% increase in their Traceability score.

Creating Opportunities for Continuous Learning

WorkTango’s team leads continue to leverage Velocity to coach their teams. With continuous feedback and improvement in mind, engineering managers share metrics from Velocity’s Developer360 module in their weekly 1-on-1s. “What I like about Velocity is that it isn’t intrusive, because it monitors the tools [the developers] already use,” Couvillion said.

These metrics give managers the data they need to identify where an engineer is facing challenges or in need of improvement. They can then pair the developer with a peer who is stronger in those areas, opening up new learning opportunities for the individual. The data can then be reviewed at a later date to quantify the improvements. 

However, it’s important to note that the data is never used punitively, and no specific milestones are set. The data is used to encourage progress, and engineers are incentivized to improve on key metrics using WorkTango’s Employee Experience Platform.

While discussions between managers and direct reports around improvement can be difficult, the data from Velocity helps keep conversations objective. Couvillion says, “You have to frame it as, ‘You’re here. Here’s where you need to be, and these are the steps to get you there.’”

Providing Evidence for Resource Requests

The Analytics module is Couvillion’s preferred Velocity feature. He uses it to monitor metrics like Average Coding Days, Cycle Time, Number of Commits Per Day, and PR Throughput. These demonstrate efficiency, giving WorkTango the ability to react to any significant drops or changes in throughput. 

Before Velocity, Couvillion had nothing to show his Board of Directors that would illustrate efficiency and throughput. Now, there are several Velocity metrics that he incorporates into his board slides, such as Innovation Rate, PR Throughput, Cycle Time, and Average Coding Days. He uses these to demonstrate efficiency while using metrics like Sprint Throughput to show the distribution of engineering efforts.

Couvillion can leverage data from Velocity to provide evidence to WorkTango’s board that the engineering teams are 90-95% successful at delivering on their commitments. If key stakeholders were to request that the engineering teams deliver 200%, Couvillion has the information he needs to advocate for additional headcount.

Couvillion says that relating the engineering data in these revenue-specific terms makes any debate about resources moot, as he can show how much more revenue can be generated by a proposed change like a revamped process, new tool, or additional engineer. “Velocity makes it so much easier to advocate for resources. For the first time, we can quantify what the engineers are actually doing,” he said. “When you’re dealing with numbers-oriented people, being able to put the right numbers in front of them is meaningful.”

Leveraging Data to Streamline Innovation

WorkTango was able to improve the efficiency of their engineering teams after Velocity helped them identify a slow Cycle Time, via a decline in PRs Merged (also known as PR Throughput), a key indicator. PR Throughput was what Couvillion calls “the canary in the mine [that told] us that our Cycle Time was not right.”

After analyzing the parts of the Cycle Time that took the longest, WorkTango was able to tweak their processes and change course. Among those changes was pushing for smaller PRs. Leadership implemented a policy to automatically reject any PR that contained over 500 lines of code, forcing the engineers to think about how to break their tickets and PRs into smaller, more manageable units.

Other changes included focused attention to reviews, and additional pair programming for areas of the code unfamiliar to newer programmers.

Changes to their processes resulted in a 20% decrease in Time to First Review — the time between opening a PR and when the PR receives its first review — and a 45% decrease in Cycle Time overall. 

While WorkTango has been actively building a new platform, they’ve been monitoring their Innovation Rate, which represents the portion of code changes that involve writing brand new code, as opposed to maintenance updates. 

Together, these improvements have enabled WorkTango’s engineering teams to deliver more value in the same amount of time. Speeding up the delivery of value in this way allows WorkTango to maintain a competitive edge, and helps them to fulfill their aim of putting people first.

To learn how data insight can help streamline your team’s processes and help you negotiate for resources, speak with a Velocity product specialist

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