How to improve your development team’s productivity

10 min read
January 20, 2023

Productivity is perhaps the number one goal many managers have for their development teams. It can help reduce costs, improve output, and bring your app to market faster.

At the same time, this goal can be very difficult to achieve, as there are so many distractions and interruptions that can hinder a team’s productivity.

That’s why we wrote this article.

We want to help you out by listing the top tips you can implement to make your team more productive.

Set goals for your development team

Every productive development team needs well-defined goals to work toward. After all, how can they produce something if they don’t know what to produce and why?

Thus, it would be best if you set and discussed goals at the beginning of the project.

Setting goals starts with clearly defining the purpose of your app. What big problem is it trying to solve? Is it supposed to improve engagement or bring in more revenue?

After that’s clear, you should set goals for your development team to fulfill that purpose.

For instance, if your app’s purpose is to become the next big ride-hailing app, then your goal might be to develop a stable ride-hailing algorithm or introduce an innovative new concept.

When making goals, make sure they’re SMART goals. You’re probably familiar with them, but here’s a summary:

SMART goals

Source: Fossil Consulting

Using the SMART framework ensures that your goals are within reason and actually relevant to your purpose.

It eliminates the risk of burning out your team by trying to accomplish something that turns out to be impossible.

SMART also forces you to be clear with your goal setting so your team knows exactly what to aim for.

For instance, instead of saying, “I want to create an app that people love,” it’s better to state your goal as “I want to create an app in the next 8 months that has 1,000 active users per month with a retention rate of at least 40%.”

Not only is the second version clearer, but it also makes it easier to measure your success.

Once you have clear goals, try breaking them down further into smaller tasks and milestones.

The point of this is to not overwhelm your development team with a seemingly unreachable goal.

Project work breakdown structure

Source: Wrike

You can also set goals for every individual member of the team.

For instance, if they’re falling behind in developer KPIs (such as code churn or flow efficiency), you can challenge them to improve their numbers.

These individual efforts can improve your team’s overall productivity.

Ensure your team has all the information

If you want your team to be productive, you need to keep the flow of key information smooth and seamless.

For example, if a developer needs an external file while writing code, they should have immediate access to it.

Trying to hunt down that file or (worse) bothering someone else to do it for them will create delays and hinder productivity.

There are many ways to prevent this from happening.

One is to have detailed documentation or a brief of every task. Ensure to include information such as coding conventions, required assets, and other relevant information.

That way, the developer won’t ask or bother his or her teammates as much.

Another good approach is to create a knowledge base for your team.

It’s a repository that includes all relevant project information, such as source codes, task lists, project roadmaps, and recent updates.

Software development knowledge base example

Source: Slite

A knowledge base ensures that information is readily accessible. A developer only needs to go there and should have answers to any questions.

This is especially vital if you have an in-house and remote team.

Furthermore, knowledge bases are easy to create with platforms like Zendesk or Archbee. It just takes a few clicks and requires no coding skills.

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Another way to keep everyone informed is to consider getting a project manager. Their job is to keep the project running smoothly and on time.

Part of that is ensuring every member gets the resources needed to perform their task.

Finally, a good project management platform can also help with the flow of information, as it keeps everyone updated on what the rest of the team is doing.

For instance, if a developer sees that the graphic designer is still working on an asset he or she requires, the developer can do something else.

Without a project management platform, he would’ve wasted time waiting for that asset to finish.

Have your development team work in sprints

Working in sprints is one of the most effective ways to amp up your team’s productivity.

A sprint is a vital component of the Agile software development methodology.

Each sprint is like a mini-development that includes all the phases of full development, from planning to testing. It lasts anywhere from a few weeks to a month.

Agile methodology

Source: DECODE

The idea of the sprint is that it forces your team to work on specific tasks in a short amount of time. This helps them focus their energy and resources, thereby making them more productive.

And there’s evidence that backs this up, such as this impressive statistic from McKinsey & Company:

Agile methodology performance self-assessment

Source: Apptio

Furthermore, sprints can help eliminate unnecessary work, helping your team focus their productive energy on more critical tasks.

This is because clients and stakeholders can give feedback at the end of every sprint instead of waiting until the end of development.

This means problems can be uncovered earlier in the process before it becomes too difficult and time consuming to fix them.

Help your team get into the flow state

Flow state describes a state of mind where the person is fully immersed in their work.

Also called being in the zone, it’s a mindset in which developers are highly focused when performing a task. In this state, people are most productive and deliver the best possible work.

Science backs this up. A 10-year study showed that a flow state could increase a person’s productivity by 500%.

What’s more, people in a flow state actually enjoy the work. This reduces the risk of burning out and further boosts their productivity.

Naturally, you’d want to get your developers in a flow state as much as possible! And there are ways to do this.

The best strategy is to eliminate as many distractions as possible as they can interrupt a person’s focus, which takes them out of the flow state.

Productivity level after interruption

Source: Actitime

As you can see, a person cannot reach peak productivity and a flow state with constant interruption.

To avoid this, you must ensure a quiet working environment for your developers. Also, schedule unavoidable interruptions like meetings and updates together (ideally first thing in the morning).

This helps create long periods where your team can simply work distraction-free.

Also, hitting a flow state requires a careful balance of skill and challenge.

Flow state

Source: Medium

If a person is too skilled at a task, they will get bored with it. Conversely, a task that’s too difficult will make them anxious and mentally burned out.

A task perfectly matched to the person’s skill level is the sweet spot that elicits a flow state.

That’s why it’s a good idea to constantly check on your team to see how they’re handling the work.

If someone struggles with their task, consider assigning them to another task more suited to their skills.

Let your development team focus on coding

As discussed previously, distractions can knock your team out of a flow state and affect their productivity. This section will look at common interruptions and teach you how to eliminate them.

The idea here is that your development team should focus on what they do best—coding. Taking non-essential tasks off their plate can help speed up their work.

And perhaps nothing kills productivity more than meetings.

Now, we’re not saying that meetings are bad. In fact, they’re essential to a functioning team.

But when done excessively and carelessly, they impact your team’s productivity and even your revenue.

The best approach is to have fewer but more effective meetings. Here’s what a successful meeting should look like:

Key elements to a successful meeting

Source: Truelist

Admin work like sending emails or taking phone calls are developers’ next big sources of interruption. The problem is that these things are unavoidable.

But you can organize them smartly.

For example, you can promote the culture of sending and reading emails only during the morning.

You can also request that phone calls only be made during certain hours of the day unless it’s an emergency.

Finally, consider designating someone (such as a team lead or project manager) to handle admin tasks like scheduling and conflict resolution on behalf of the team.

Review your development team’s backlog

A backlog refers to the tasks the development team has yet to complete. However, this seemingly innocent list can cause productivity problems if not properly handled.

Normally, when a developer finishes a task, they assign themselves a new task from the backlog—often the top item on the list.

But there’s a danger here.

For example, what if the developer assigned themselves to a task that’s actually set to be removed? They would’ve worked on something that won’t end up in the final app.

Or what if they wrongfully worked on a task assigned to someone else?

That’s why regularly reviewing your development team’s backlog is critical.

Development backlog

Source: microTOOL

Chiefly, you should order the tasks in order of priority. That is, core features and urgent fixes should be higher on the list so they get completed earlier.

Also, be on the lookout for duplicates or outdated tasks.

Regular backlog reviews can also help you estimate your team’s productivity. Are they sticking to the project timeline or taking too long to finish tasks?

Knowing this can help you correct it as necessary.

Have a continuous feedback loop in place

Constant, open communication is the bedrock of productivity.

Regular feedback from the team can help you determine the problem areas that hinder their productivity, allowing you to fix them early.

That’s why it’s a good idea to have regular weekly retrospectives and 1-on-1 meetings with the team.

This allows them to bring their ideas forward, either in front of everyone or privately, depending on what they’re more comfortable with.

Open communication also makes people more engaged and happy. And according to a study by the University of Warwick, that can increase productivity by 12%.

Impact of happiness on productivity

Source: Neil Patel

Open communication also includes using the right communication tools and protocols.

For example, you can determine that live meetings should be done in Zoom and quick messages should be sent in Slack.

You can also send regular pulse checks to your team. These quick surveys can help you measure the morale and well-being of your staff.

Pulse check

Source: Easy Feedback

Whatever method of receiving feedback you choose, be sure to take it seriously and act on it.

When everyone’s opinion is encouraged and respected, morale goes up. In addition, the team can tap more ideas and perspectives that could lead to increased productivity.

Start with an already productive team

If you want a productive team, the easiest approach is just to hire one—a reliable team with the right skills, experience, and work ethic.

We think DECODE is just that team. And we have dozens of successful app projects, a pool of 70+ professionals, and testimonials from happy clients to prove it.

Interested? Get in touch today, and let’s talk about your next project.

Written by

Marko Strizic

Co-founder and CEO

Marko started DECODE with co-founders Peter and Mario, and a decade later, leads the company as CEO. His role is now almost entirely centred around business strategy, though his extensive background in software engineering makes sure he sees the future of the company from every angle. A graduate of the University of Zagreb’s Faculty of Electrical Engineering and Computing, he’s fascinated by the architecture of mobile apps and reactive programming, and a strong believer in life-long learning. Always ready for action. Or an impromptu skiing trip.

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