Technology

GitHub: Top tips to make software developers more productive

Developers who report a high degree of understanding of their code feel 42% more productive than those with low or no understanding, research from GitHub has found. While this may seem obvious, according to GitHub, low understanding can come from various factors, including poor or outdated documentation, lack of onboarding, or the sheer pace of innovation with new technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI).

Teams need to move fast and can overlook making their code clear, simple, or well documented, and while that is sometimes necessary, it can hinder long-term productivity. GitHub said tooling and conventions that help code be understandable in and across teams can future-proof productivity.

Nicole Forsgren, partner researcher at Microsoft and co-author of the study, said: “Every developer has experienced the frustration of not understanding their code or its surrounding context well.”
 
Since so much of code is interconnected and developed by multiple people, Forsgren said that having a good DevEx is important.

Eirini Kalliamvakou, staff researcher at GitHub and co-author of the study, added: “Certain technologies can help developers better understand their code and future-proof their productivity.”

For instance, GitHub’s own CoPilot provides an Open AI-powered code auto-complete function in code editors such as the one built into Visual Studio.

Working with DX, the developer experience platform, GitHub ran an online survey, completed by 170 developers, that found developers who carve out significant time for deep work enjoy a 50% productivity boost.

However, the study also found that friction in the software development process is abundant. According to GitHub, the development lifecycle is riddled with red tape, and successful delivery of code to production is a frustratingly infrequent event. Even worse, the problems keep compounding. Developers look on helplessly as upper management fails to intervene, leading to standstill velocity and the departure of top engineers.

In terms of feedback, code reviews that are completed quickly allow developers and teams to move to their next idea quickly. GitHub’s research showed that developers who report fast code-review turnaround times feel 20% more innovative compared with developers who report slow turnaround times. 

Developers who find their work engaging feel they are 30% more productive, compared with those who find their work boring. GitHub recommended that team leaders rethink the distribution of tasks among individuals in a team, or teams within an organisation. “To optimise building code, you need the right environment,” said Kalliamvakou. “Implementing practices that enable your developers to enter and stay in the flow is a winning move.”

The study also reported that intuitive, easy processes can boost innovation, while cumbersome processes can sink time and create frustration. Developers who have intuitive processes said they feel they are 50% more innovative.

“It’s not always about the technology,” said Forsgren. “If you can find ways to remove friction and blockers for developers, you’ll unlock so many things.”

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