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RDEL #19: How does user-centricity impact engineering performance?
In the 3rd edition of our monthly review on the DORA report, we look at how user-centricity impacts team performance, and how this applies to the many different types of engineering teams.
Happy (week of) Thanksgiving! 🦃 Welcome back to Research-Driven Engineering Leadership - each week, we pose an interesting topic in engineering leadership, and apply the latest research in the field to drive to an answer.
🔬 Throughout this month, we’ll be asking questions that are highlighted in the DORA report’s research findings. So far, we’ve looked at how team “type” can indicate performance, and whether improved documentation has negative consequences for certain teammates. This week we look at the impact of having engineers develop a deeper understanding of their users. It can often be a shift in how teams operate, but what is the impact on overall engineering team performance?
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Note: this month-long series contains a sample of the report that we found most useful to our readers. To dive deeper into the data, take a look at the full report.
The DevOps Research and Assessment (DORA) team focuses on understanding the relationship between capabilities and outcomes. For almost a decade, the DORA team has assembled and analyzed data from over 36,000 professionals. The annual DORA report is a rich analysis of what factors contribute to high-performing engineering teams, and what actions teams can achieve great outcomes.
In their annual survey to engineering teams, the DORA team looked at three critical characteristics of user-centricity:
How well teams understand the needs of their users
How well-aligned the team is towards meeting user needs
How user feedback is used when prioritizing work
Most importantly, they used those three questions to answer: what is the performance impact of user-centric teams?
The team ran a series of analyses on the survey responses of thousands of engineering leaders to determine relationships between user-centricity and performance. The results showed that teams with a strong user-focus had 40% higher organizational performance, and focusing on the user leads to 20% higher job satisfaction. The specific areas of improvement are shown below.
Across the board, user-centricity improved outcomes for the team. This likely happens because user feedback helps teams prioritize projects and create products that more effectively meet user needs.
These results have meaningful application to any type of engineering team. We’ll break down the ways of applying user-centricity into the types of engineering teams that managers may be in charge of.
Product and delivery teams: For these teams, user-centricity has more straightforward benefits. The more aligned the team is with the users needs, the better they are at building high quality software that meets their users needs. Being a user-centric or balanced team tends to favor better outcomes for meeting user needs (as we detail in an earlier RDEL).
Operational teams: These teams tend to be at least one level removed from the features that users directly engage with, yet benefit similarly from adopting a more user-centric approach. For example, when optimizing performance and usage it becomes important to understand what a user expects from their product. Aligning SRE practices to user expectations and goals can give operational teams a more user-centered mindset.
Platform engineering teams: For platform teams, internal developers are the users of their platform - this actually makes it easier to implement user-centricity on this type of team. Platform teams can spend more time observing and empathizing with how the different engineering teams work today to find ways of eliminating friction.
Engineering leaders: Leaders should create incentive structures that encourage teammates to align success with delivering value to their customers. When leaders rewards teammates based on only “output” metrics, like number of features delivered, it can send the wrong signal about building whats fastest vs whats best. Instead, focus more on the outcome of delivering value to customers.
Enjoy these tips to create a more user-centric team. Have a wonderful week, and eat some pie! 🥧
From the Quotient team
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