As an engineering manager or software engineer, it becomes necessary to learn how the development process works, measure where the development team is struggling with and take some actions to avoid that scenario.

In this article, we will explain in an easy and understandable way how to identify bottlenecks in the software development process. For that, we will use data and metrics that will help us to measure in a visual way how the development workflow is working on.

How to identify bottlenecks in the software development process

To start with, a bottleneck in the software industry is when the workflow stops or becomes slower at a particular point because of a concrete inefficiency. So, how to identify and solve bottlenecks?


Step 1. Understand how to measure the bottleneck

When working on a new feature or fixing bugs, bottlenecks can show up as a result of internal or external conditions. Identifying how and why to measure them, can really help us to improve our software development process.

Cycle Time is the metric we will use to determine if there is a bottleneck in the development process of a new feature or bug fix.

Cycle Time will tell you if there is a bottleneck in your workflow

The Cycle Time is the average time PRs take to be completed since they are opened until they are merged or closed (lifetime). When dealing with potential bottlenecks, it may happen that:

  • Your team needs external resources but they don’t arrive in time. As a result, they are blocked by some external condition.
  • That feature is complex and maybe we need more resources to finish it in time.
  • Your team is working on a feature using a single but massive PR. Instead of breaking the project down into small tasks, they decide to use only one. Readability and efficiency are compromised with those kinds of PRs.

Using the Cycle Time metric we will be able to identify all cases above listed and take action to solve the issues in time.

Step 2. Measure the bottleneck

In Scope, having the ability to measure bottlenecks is quite easy:

  1. First of all, you need to log in to the Scope app and connect your git repositories.
  2. Go to the pull requests section on the Dashboard and select whichever you want to see if there is a bottleneck.
  3. Cycle Time metric will show up and will let us know how long it takes to complete all the PRs by person and repository. You can play with the Date Picker to select the date slots you want to compare from.

Then we can ask whoever is increasing his/her cycle time over time why it’s taking so long to finish the PRs in a time slot. Doing that we will avoid not finishing our tasks in time.

What is important for us to emphasize is that it’s not about blaming the engineer or team asking why it took so long to accomplish the pull requests or the reviews. It’s more about understanding why things are happening that way and put some solutions in action to avoid the same code issues in the future.

EXTRA: we can also make use of another metric that measures the average number of lines modified by the pull requests. This metric, Trends, will show a visualization of the average number of lines modified by all the PRs by day.

Trends will allow you to measure PR size easily

Normally, large PRs drastically reduce the productivity of a software engineer and teams. That’s why we highly encourage to reduce the size of pull-requests. If you measure on Trends that your progress is highly different from the target value (by default, 150 lines modified by every PR), it might be because of the presence of a bottleneck in your team.

We at Scope provide metrics that help software development teams obtain valuable data to improve the entire software development process.

Bottlenecks are one of the main problems in the industry. Identifying them, obtaining data on their appearance, and improving is an essential part of increasing the productivity of software development.

We have also prepared a guide to increase the productivity of software engineering teams. You can download it here.

Thanks for reading.