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These key engineering metrics help separate the truly elite software development teams from the rest.

While software development practices are constantly changing, there will always be a tier of truly elite engineering teams, who stand above their peers by combining unparalleled efficiency with top-tier code quality. But how do you measure elite performance?

Evolving elite metrics from DORA

The DevOps Research and Assessment (DORA) team, in collaboration with Nicole Forsgren, Gene Kim, Jez Humble, and Puppet, laid the groundwork for DevOps metrics. The four key metrics they identified – deployment frequency, lead time for changes, mean time to recovery, and change failure rate – helped quantify  a culture of continuous improvement, and offered valuable insights into software development and delivery success.

However, as engineering teams become the heartbeat of companies, we saw a need for a more comprehensive set of metrics, leading to the release of the Engineering Benchmarks Report, by LinearB. 

Based on an analysis of 2,000+ development teams and 4.5 million code branches, this report goes beyond DORA metrics to provide deeper insights into what distinguishes the top 10% of engineering teams.


The key metrics that define elite engineering teams

Delivery Lifecycle Metrics

The first bucket of metrics that elite teams monitor focus on the delivery lifecycle. These are your measures for how long it takes features to go from programming to deployment.

Cycle time: Elite dev teams maintain a cycle time of under 42 hours. For most orgs, cycle time consists of the period between the first code commit and customer delivery.

Coding time: Writing code swiftly and effectively is a hallmark of elite teams, with elite teams spending less than half an hour from the start of a first commit to issuing a pull request (PR).

Pickup time: Agile and responsive, elite teams address and respond to pull requests in under one hour, ensuring a smooth workflow.

Review time: With less than one hour spent on the code review and pull request merge process, elite teams establish shorter feedback loops and faster iterations.

Deploy time: Releasing code to production in less than one hour after a branch merge showcases the streamlined deployment process and continuous delivery capabilities.

Developer Workflow Metrics

The second bucket of metrics focus on the inner working of the developer pipeline. These measurements look at friction or efficiencies within the workflow process. 

Deploy frequency: Elite dev teams deploy code into production daily, emphasizing their focus on continuous integration and deployment to deliver value quickly and reliably.

Pull request size: Smaller, more manageable PRs are the norm for elite teams, averaging fewer than 105 code changes per pull request. This approach leads to faster pickups, thorough reviews, quicker merges, and increased deployment frequency.

Rework rate: This measures the amount of changes made to code that is less than 21 days old. If this number is high, it could signal code churn and is a leading indicator of quality issues. Maintaining a rework rate of under 2%, elite teams deliver robust and reliable code, minimizing the need for rework and ensuring high code quality.

Business alignment metrics

The last set of metrics focus on business alignment. This is how engineering teams make sure the resources they’re expending match company goals and that projects crucial to the business are being delivered as planned.

Planning accuracy: Elite dev teams achieve planning accuracy of 80% or more, demonstrating their commitment to delivering on commitments and aligning their work with business goals. 

Capacity accuracy: In terms of a team’s ability to deliver on unplanned work by measuring all completed work against planned work, elite teams deliver a capacity accuracy between 85% and 100%. 

Visibility into metrics

Elite engineering teams are driven by an unwavering dedication to excellence. By comprehending and leveraging the key metrics outlined above, these teams continuously identify areas for improvement, streamline their processes, and accelerate the delivery of high-quality code. 

The evolution from DORA's pioneering research to the Engineering Benchmarks Report shows that what we consider elite engineering efficiency is constantly changing. Armed with these metrics and the right tools, engineering teams can unlock their full potential and rise to the level of elite performers.

Want to learn more? Read the whole report here.