Actionable metrics for engineering leaders.
As you prepare for your board meetings, you might be struggling to find some good news to share with the board. Sure, it’s a mistake to go into a board meeting pretending everything is going well — board meetings are a valuable opportunity to share your startup’s challenges and get guidance from a panel of trusted advisors.
But your current challenges don’t tell the whole story. It’s also important to highlight your company’s opportunities and to articulate your strategic vision for the coming months. To do that, you need to look beyond any suffering short-term KPIs. Revenue may be flagging, but other signs point to your company’s resilience and its ability to hold its own in a tough market.
To have an informed conversation about your company’s future, you need to communicate your company’s ability to add new value to your product, the speed at which you can ship that new value to users, and your customers’ response to those new features.
Innovation is a leading indicator. It’s not predictive, but it can hint at your company’s chances of future success. Software companies that are able to keep delivering new value to their users will be better positioned to retain their customers, outrun their competitors, and recover from a difficult year.
Of course, there’s no universal metric for innovation. At board meetings, engineering departments often share a list of completed features to communicate the value they delivered to users in the previous quarter. To signal the value to come in the upcoming quarter, many also share a list of features planned.
While important, a features list does not go far enough to capture the work the engineering department is doing. Features may require more work than anticipated, and priorities may change throughout the quarter.
A company that decides to shift focus and enhance security protocols may not deliver on its planned feature list for that quarter. Still, those security upgrades represent innovation.
They’re improvements that deliver real value to the customer, and they may even be critical to landing new deals or securing a foothold in a new segment of the market.
Complement the usual features list and any engineering KPIs you’re already sharing with metrics that highlight your company’s success in three key areas:
1.) Designing and implementing new value for your users
2.) Quickly shipping those new changes
3.) Turning your product into a must-have solution for your customers
Feature Cycle Time
Feature Cycle Time speaks to your company’s ability to add new value to your product. It’s a measurement of the time it takes for a new feature to go from idea to implementation and can help you understand whether your team is working together effectively.
If the design process is efficient, product specs are clear, and product and engineering are aligned, it will be reflected in your Feature Cycle Time. A low Feature Cycle Time indicates that your team is frequently finding new ways to add value for your users.
Delivery Cycle Time
Delivery Cycle Time is a measure of how long it takes for code to go from a developer’s computer into deployment. It’s a way to isolate the execution portion of the development process and measure engineering speed independent of the variable feature design and planning process. Teams with consistently low Cycle Times are shipping code often, reliably and quickly delivering new value to users. This puts them in a strong position to outpace their competition.
Customer Retention Rate
A consistently high Customer Retention Rate demonstrates that your team is moving in the right direction and that their innovations are speaking directly to your customers’ needs and adding essential value to your product. If your Customer Retention Rate is high in a time when your customers are likely looking to make spending cuts, that’s a strong indicator that your product is a must-have for your users.
It’s been an unbelievably difficult year, and it’s likely that your short-term metrics reflect that. But with the right data, you can keep the conversation focused on productive ways to move forward.
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