Understanding engineering effectiveness

Engineering Metrics

Oct 10, 2023

In the intricate world of software engineering, the quest for optimal performance is a continuous journey. The landscape is ever-evolving, and engineering leaders are constantly seeking tools and methodologies to gauge their team's effectiveness. Metrics, when used judiciously, can provide invaluable insights into the performance of an engineering team. However, it's essential to understand that not all metrics are created equal. Let's delve into the world of engineering metrics and explore how they can be harnessed to understand effectiveness without damaging the culture.

The Metrics Landscape

Metrics provide a tangible lens into the performance of an engineering team. They can highlight inefficiencies, bottlenecks, and areas of optimization. However, it's crucial to understand that metrics are just one piece of the puzzle. They need to be interpreted in the context of the broader engineering organization, the challenges faced by team members, and the overall engineering projects they're working on.

DORA Metrics: The Health Indicators

DORA metrics, encompassing factors like deployment frequency, change failure rate, and mean time to recovery, are increasingly recognized as pivotal indicators of an engineering organization's health. They provide a snapshot of team performance and can be invaluable for stakeholders to gauge the efficiency of the software engineering process.

However, while DORA metrics are excellent for assessing overall health, they don't delve deep enough to pinpoint the root causes of inefficiencies. They tell you what's happening but not necessarily why it's happening.

Code Metrics: The Diagnostic Tools

  1. Pickup Time, Review Times, & Review Depth: These metrics collectively shed light on the efficiency and depth of the development process. Extended pickup times might indicate challenges in task allocation, while prolonged review times can highlight bottlenecks in the code review process. The depth of the review indicates the meticulousness of the process, ensuring code quality.

  2. Pull Request Velocity, Throughput, & Quality: Monitoring pull request velocity can shed light on the team's efficiency in processing and integrating changes. Throughput, indicating the volume of tasks completed in a given timeframe, can be a robust indicator of team productivity. Quality metrics, encompassing factors like code quality, lines of code, and the number of defects, provide insights into the robustness of the development process.

  3. Engineering Productivity & Workflow: By analyzing the engineering productivity metrics, engineering managers can identify areas of improvement in the workflow. This includes understanding bottlenecks, optimizing the development process, and ensuring that the engineering team is working on initiatives that align with business goals.

Harnessing Metrics for Enhanced Engineering Productivity

  1. Contextual Decision-Making: Metrics offer a wealth of data, but they need to be amalgamated with qualitative insights. This ensures that decisions are rooted in a comprehensive understanding of team dynamics, challenges, and the broader context.

  2. Empowering Team Members: Metrics should be tools of empowerment. By providing team members with dashboards and insights, they can take initiatives to enhance their productivity, leading to better code quality and a streamlined workflow.

  3. Continuous Improvement: Metrics should be the catalyst for continuous improvement. By identifying areas of optimization, engineering teams can refine their processes, reduce downtime, and ensure timely delivery of new features.

Innovative Tools for Holistic Insights

In the quest to harness metrics effectively, tools like BuildPulse Engineering Metrics are emerging as game-changers. Unlike traditional tools that focus solely on metrics, BuildPulse delves deeper, offering insights at the repo, team, or individual level, actionable metrics such as code velocity and quality, and a developer copilot that automates busywork. This ensures that teams have a comprehensive understanding of their performance, enabling them to optimize their processes without compromising on culture.


In the ever-evolving landscape of software engineering, the balance between performance and culture is paramount. Metrics, when used judiciously, can be a powerful ally in enhancing productivity. However, it's essential for engineering leaders to remember that metrics are just one tool in their arsenal. By combining metrics with a deeper understanding of team dynamics, challenges, and the broader context, leaders can foster a culture of continuous improvement, innovation, and trust. BuildPulse Engineering Metrics can be the linchpin that aids teams in navigating the delicate equilibrium between performance and culture, ensuring triumph in the intricate world of software engineering.


What is the difference between a flaky test and a false positive?

A false positive is a test failure in your test suite due to an actual error in the code being executed, or a mismatch in what the test expects from the code.

A flaky test is when you have conflicting test results for the same code. For example, while running tests if you see that a test fails and passes, but the code hasn’t changed, then it’s a flaky test. There’s many causes of flakiness.

What is an example of a flaky test?

An example can be seen in growing test suites - when pull request builds fail for changes you haven’t made. Put differently, when you see a test pass and fail without any code change. These failed tests are flaky tests.

What are common causes of flakiness?

Broken assumptions in test automation and development process can introduce flaky tests - for example, if test data is shared between different tests whether asynchronous, high concurrency, or sequential, the results of one test can affect another. 

Poorly written test code can also be a factor. Improper polling, race conditions, improper event dependency handling, shared test data, or timeout handling for network requests or page loads. Any of these can lead to flaky test failures and test flakiness.

End-to-end tests that rely on internal API uptime can cause test flakiness and test failures.

What's the impact of flaky tests?

Flaky tests can wreck havoc on the development process - from wasted developer time from test retries, to creating bugs and product instability and missed releases, time-consuming flaky tests can grind your development process to a halt.

What is the best way to resolve or fix flaky tests?

Devops, software engineering, and software development teams will often need to compare code changes, logs, and other context across test environments from before the test instability started, and after - adding retries or reruns can also help with debugging. Test detection and test execution tooling can help automate this process as well. 

BuildPulse enables you to find, assess impact metrics, quarantine, and fix flaky tests.

What are some strategies for preventing flaky tests?

Paying attention and prioritizing flaky tests as they come up can be a good way to prevent them from becoming an issue. This is where a testing culture is important - if a flaky test case is spotted by an engineer, it should be logged right away. This, however, takes a certain level of hygiene - BuildPulse can provide monitoring so flaky tests are caught right away.

What type of tests have flaky tests?

Flaky tests can be seen across the testing process - unit tests, integration tests, end-to-end tests, UI tests, acceptance tests.

What if I don't have that many flaky tests?

Flaky tests can be stealthy - often ignored by engineers and test runs are retried, they build up until they can’t be ignored anymore. These automated tests slow down developer productivity, impact functionality, and reduce confidence in test results and test suites. Better to get ahead while it’s easy and invest in test management.

It’s also important to prevent regressions to catch flakiness early while it’s manageable.

What languages and continuous integration providers does BuildPulse work with?

BuildPulse integrates with all continuous integration providers (including GitHub Actions, BitBucket Pipelines, and more), test frameworks, and workflows.

Combat non-determinism, drive test confidence, and provide the best experience you can to your developers!

How long does implementation/integration with BuildPulse take?

Implementation/integration takes 5 minutes!

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