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Is it better to measure individual developer productivity or team productivity?

For most businesses, the development team’s productivity has a significant organization-wide impact – perhaps more than any other team. A strong dev team determines a company’s ability to innovate, respond to the market, and improve customer satisfaction. But what happens when development teams aren’t as productive as they could be? 

According to The Conference Board’s research, team disengagement costs US organizations a whopping $450-550 billion yearly. Not to mention the fact that it also leads to developer job dissatisfaction.

To get a better grip on this, many tech leaders turn to productivity measurement to analyze working patterns and provide insight into how to improve. However, two very different approaches to this can significantly impact the outcomes of your reporting. They are: 1) measuring individual performance; or 2) team (collective) performance. 

In this article, we’ll investigate each measurement method and review the benefits and drawbacks of each.

Why measure software engineering productivity?

So, why should we measure developer productivity in the first place? There are many reasons why teams might want to measure this, including:

  • To identify gaps and common blockers in processes
  • To understand team capacity and allocate and plan resources
  • To recognize outstanding performance and impact on the business
  • To discover and implement more effective processes
  • To create productivity benchmarks for future performance

The benefits of measuring team productivity

In general, we recommend tracking teams’ productivity as a whole rather than at the individual level. This is also the most common practice for agile reporting. Here’s why: 

See the whole picture

Tracking the team’s performance as a whole gives a bird’s eye view of how the team collaborates and what factors impact the entire development process. For example, using a cumulative flow chart to track productivity would help you visualize where issues are blocked across the whole team’s workflow, be it developing eCommerce homepage UX elements or working on the website performance. This, and other methods of team productivity tracking, are helpful when making decisions about processes that impact the entire team. 

More accurate results

Evaluating each team member’s contribution based on their individual output doesn’t always take into account all “productive” tasks. For instance, there may be team members who code and release less but whose contributions are essential to enabling, reviewing, or contributing to the work of others. Team performance tracking is almost always more accurate in a case like this (and it’s a common one). 

Fostering teamwork

When the employees know they will be tracking and assessing their team’s performance, they are more likely to work together and enable one another to find solutions. Team members you evaluate together are also less likely to find themselves in siloes and are more likely to share their expertise with one another. 

The disadvantages of team productivity tracking

Of course, you should consider some factors when choosing to track a team’s productivity, such as: 

Harder to identify top-performers 

With a lack of info on individual contributions, it may be harder to identify your top performers. This can be a challenge come review time, especially if you’re team members aren’t super vocal about their accomplishments. However, this can be combated with 360 reviews that allow other team members to speak to achievements they’ve witnessed during collaboration. 

Harder to get insight into individual workloads

Similar to the issue of identifying top performers, it might also be hard to determine what team members need help with their current workload. This can especially escalate if your team members aren’t vocal about their capacity. If you’re using a story points system, however, this might help give a rough estimate of individual capacity to reduce the likelihood of overload. 

The benefits of individual developer productivity tracking

Measuring the productivity of individual developers is rare among agile teams, but many software teams still use this method. Here are some reasons why it might work for your team:

Helps to improve individual productivity

Most developers aren’t aware of their own working patterns (i.e., where they’re spending the most time, how long certain issues are in the pipeline, etc.). Having insights into one’s habits can help devs understand personal blockers, what eats up their time the most, and what their average capacity looks like. These insights can empower devs to unblock themselves, prevent over-committing to projects, and better sort out priorities. 

Empowers devs to quantify their accomplishments

Measuring individual success can empower team members to quantify the value they bring to your organization. Since individual metrics aren’t tied to or reliant on other team members, it enables employees to take ownership of these metrics and, when they succeed, use them to advance their careers when negotiating promotions or raises. 

Invoicing clientele and the need to track hours

This point applies to you if you’re an engineering firm with clients. Measuring the # of hours one spends on a project is typically measured at the individual level and may therefore be necessary if your team invoices based on billable hours. Furthermore, in this case, agile metrics like story points (mostly used for measuring team performance) might not make sense to clients as a unit of measurement. 

The disadvantages of individual developer productivity tracking

While there are certainly benefits of individual productivity tracking, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows. It can have some serious downsides, such as: 

Workplace anxieties, burnout, and poor culture

Let’s face it, monitoring individual performance can cause unnecessary anxiety, even for top-performing contributors. This is the main reason we generally do not recommend individual performance measurements. It can also lead to overworking, an overly competitive work culture, and developer burnout.

The reality is not everyone can be on top of their game every single week. Individual performance measurement can put too much pressure on team members to always be overachieving at the expense of their mental health and job satisfaction.  


Whether to track individual productivity or team productivity (or both) is ultimately up to what benefits your team members the most. We recommend taking all pros and cons into consideration, as how productivity is measured can significantly impact your team’s culture, job satisfaction, overall productivity, and more.  

If you’re ready to start tracking some metrics, try running your GitHub repo through our Free GitHub Analytics tool to get instant access to your development team’s performance metrics from the last 4 weeks.

About the Author

Kate Parish

Kate Parish is a chief marketing officer at Onilab. She has almost a decade of experience in the company and is still enthusiastic about every aspect of digital marketing. Kate sees the marketing mission in ensuring sustainable business growth. For this purpose, she helps companies and readers create efficient campaigns, solve common problems, and enhance crucial website metrics, such as conversions, bounce rates, and others. 

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