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Efficiency: Improvement of Software Engineering Teams

Virendra Gupta
Thursday, January 8, 2009
Virendra Gupta
Every organization is now facing the challenge of gearing up itself for the upheavals of economic slowdown and needs to act swiftly to prepare for it. Swiftness will decide whether an organization can survive and maintain competitiveness or not.

For software engineering managers or program managers, this may require a mindset change since most of them have grown up in the industry from the grassroots level (software engineer level) to their current position, and generally have seen times when companies were ready to go to any extent to attract and retain talent, and hence the expectation that they need to optimize the cost or improve efficiency may seem foreign to them. Inertia and the time taken for this change may prove disastrous for the corporations. They are not expected to just optimize and reduce the cost but also need to look at improving efficiency of their teams.

Improving the efficiency of the teams may turn out to be a complex affair from the very first step, since a software engineering team’s efficiency improvement is not a well understood term. How do we define it and measure the level of success is a complex issue.

Do we take efficiency improvement as a simple productivity improvement? If yes, how do we measure it – measure hour wise, day wise, or by any other unit. Measuring it will have a significant impact on the methods or strategies chosen to improve it. Efficiency may also be a function of quality of deliverables. If we improve productivity, but at the same time allow quality to go down, can it be considered efficiency improvement? For some, efficiency may be how quickly the engineering team can respond to the customer requirements or needs.

The first step in improving efficiency could be to understand this aspect and define clearly what improvement we are looking for. That done, we need to look at the aspects that may impact the efficiency. This also may not be so simple. The engineering team’s efficiency, as we have understood, may be a function of the following – process, tools, techniques or methods, competency of people, and ability of the management. We need to look at each of the aspects and check what in each category impacts efficiency, and what could be done to improve each aspect of efficiency as defined earlier. A well-chosen and focused strategy here may give the desired results. May be, all four aspects of process, tools, techniques, and the competency of people and ability of management need to be considered in detail.

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