Increasing Developer Productivity: Insider Tips from GitHub

Recent research conducted by GitHub has revealed that developers who possess a strong understanding of their code are 42% more productive than those who lack such comprehension. This finding may seem obvious, but GitHub highlights that low understanding can be attributed to various factors, including inadequate or outdated documentation, insufficient onboarding processes, and the rapid pace of innovation in emerging technologies like artificial intelligence (AI).

While it is sometimes necessary for teams to prioritize speed and overlook the clarity, simplicity, and documentation of their code, GitHub emphasizes that this approach can hinder long-term productivity. To address this issue, the platform suggests implementing tooling and conventions that promote code understandability within and across teams, ultimately future-proofing productivity. Nicole Forsgren, a partner researcher at Microsoft and co-author of the study, asserts that every developer has experienced the frustration of not comprehending their code or its surrounding context, emphasizing the importance of a good developer experience (DevEx). Eirini Kalliamvakou, a staff researcher at GitHub and co-author of the study, adds that certain technologies can assist developers in better understanding their code and enhancing their productivity in the long run.

For example, GitHub’s CoPilot, an Open AI-powered code auto-complete function integrated into code editors like Visual Studio, can aid developers in this regard. In collaboration with DX, a developer experience platform, GitHub conducted an online survey with 170 developers, leading to the discovery that developers who allocate significant time for deep work experience a 50% increase in productivity.

However, the study also uncovers an abundance of friction in the software development process. GitHub notes that the development lifecycle is plagued by red tape, and the successful delivery of code to production occurs infrequently and frustrates developers. Moreover, these issues tend to compound over time, as upper management neglects to intervene, resulting in stagnant velocity and the departure of top engineers.

Regarding feedback, GitHub’s research highlights that prompt code reviews enable developers and teams to swiftly move forward with their next ideas. Developers who experience fast code-review turnaround times are reported to feel 20% more innovative compared to those who encounter delays in this aspect. Furthermore, developers who find their work engaging claim to be 30% more productive than their counterparts who consider their work boring. In light of this, GitHub recommends that team leaders reevaluate the distribution of tasks among team members or teams within an organization, recognizing the significance of creating an environment that fosters optimal code development. Kalliamvakou emphasizes the importance of implementing practices that enable developers to enter and sustain a state of flow.

The study also indicates that intuitive and streamlined processes can foster innovation, while cumbersome processes consume time and generate frustration. Developers who work within intuitive processes express a perception of being 50% more innovative. Forsgren remarks that technology is not always the sole factor. Instead, finding ways to alleviate friction and eliminate obstacles for developers can unlock numerous opportunities for improvement.

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