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What Disruptive Software Teams Care About

The need for rapid innovation is a key priority for software teams in high-growth companies. Every disruptive software team — particularly those at startups — aims to increase productivity to upend the status quo. We examine this and other trends and opportunities for creative disruption at software development-driven companies in Zenhub’s newest report.

So, what exactly do development teams need to make an impact? We surveyed founders, executives, team leads, project managers, developers, and other key players at startups and scaleups with fewer than 1,000 employees. They said they’re focused on technologies, tools, and work styles that empower software teams to get more done faster.

Accelerating Innovation to Gain a Competitive Edge

The best way to accelerate software-led innovation is to focus on the areas making it difficult to do just that. For the key decision-makers who responded to our survey, that means enabling their teams to:

  • Get more of the right work done in less time — respondents in all roles, including executives, senior managers, and practitioners, told us increased productivity and time spent meaningfully are their top priorities. But they’re not tied to a particular development methodology to gain that productivity. They’re using Agile, but they also use Scrum, Waterfall, and other methodologies, often in combination. They’re more focused on doing whatever it takes to get the job done rather than carefully following a specific development process.
  • Spend less time on tedious manual tasks — this is where automation fits into the picture. Almost half of the people we talked to prioritized automating tedious tasks. And 41 percent said time spent meaningfully is critical to developer happiness and productivity. In many ways, that’s not a surprise. I’ve never met a developer who wants to spend time in more meetings or update yet another status report.
  • Combine skills and expertise across teams — this drives technology breakthroughs. For decision-makers, this boils down to enabling individuals and teams to collaborate more efficiently on initiatives that will deliver a competitive edge, no matter where they’re located. To achieve this, they need to enable developers to share their knowledge efficiently without awkwardly timed meetings or distractive, tedious chat sessions.

Productivity Tools That Deliver on Their Priorities

Developer happiness is a big part of the equation. One of the basic principles of economics is that scarcity drives demand. In the digital economy, developers — who number about 25 million globally — are in limited supply. More than ever, we are in the midst of a war for developing talent where the demand for skilled developers far exceeds the available supply. This problem is especially acute for startups and small companies who tend to lack the resources of larger organizations to attract the types of engineers who can change the game. Recruiting and retaining engineering talent has emerged as the basis for building a competitive edge.

Image of happy developers working

Tools and work practices that let developers focus on what they love doing — coding and other core technical activities — can go a long way towards keeping current staff and attracting new top talent.

The same is true for remote collaboration. The key is to choose tools that let developers easily work together and gain visibility into one another’s work in an asynchronous way. Building software is a team sport. Leaders must embrace tools and work management approaches that break down information silos and enable total alignment for stress-free collaboration.

The tools disruptive software teams use must also make it easy to work with open source in a productive and automated way. Open source participation is a huge part of disruptive software teams’ strategies — 83 percent of decision-makers tell us they see open source software as “very” or “somewhat” important to their team’s success. Therefore, the faster and easier it is to work with and contribute to open source components, the more time developers have to innovate on top of these key building blocks.

Read the Full Report and Recommendations

These are just a few of the highlights from our State of Disruptive Software Teams report. It captures the findings of a survey we ran from October-November 2021. For more insight into the survey results and recommendations, check out the full report.

Read Our White Paper on the Future of Work

This report is just one step in our efforts to offer insights that can help you build and empower your teams to drive business success. We’ve also published a white paper, The Future of Work for Software-Led Companies. In addition to the top priorities for software-centric organizations, you’ll learn:

  • Why yesterday’s tools can’t cut it in a software-centric world
  • Which tech trends will shape the future of software development
  • Why open source is critical to the future of software development
  • The pros and cons of outsourcing software development
  • How productivity management platforms bring predictability to projects


Build Better and Faster with Developer-First Experiences

A common thread in our survey research and expert interviews is that software-centric organizations need to create and sustain environments that support and foster developer success to grow faster and drive business performance. The most innovative organizations have figured out that you need to empower engineers with the tools and experiences they need to do their best work to build game-changing software.

At Zenhub, we’ve prioritized creating the industry’s best team experiences powered by agile workflow automation, real-time progress and productivity insights, and other developer-friendly capabilities to increase visibility, coordination, and productivity across modern teams. If your company works in GitHub, use Zenhub to dramatically reduce friction in your development process and unleash your team’s potential to ship code faster. To learn more and try Zenhub for yourself, visit


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