SPACE Metrics: How to Get Started
A look at SPACE metrics and how they differ from DORA metrics.
SPACE metrics aim to provide a holistic approach to measuring developer productivity. They can potentially close the gap left by DORA in the human and emotional aspect of development teams.
The SPACE framework moves away from measuring development productivity with simple metrics on an individual performance level, or even worse, trying to encapsulate it with “one metric that matters.” It embraces different factors that impact productivity at the individual, team, and organizational levels. SPACE summarizes 5 different dimensions for productivity.
DORA & SPACE
One question that gets asked a lot is DORA versus SPACE — which one should I use?
SPACE is actually an evolution of DORA and not contradictory to DORA. Hence, DORA Metrics and SPACE Metrics can be used together.
DORA Metrics provide a great foundation as North Star metrics for engineering organizations to measure their productivity. SPACE metrics expand this further to measure factors that impact this productivity, and indications on how to improve it.
DORA only considers a couple of elements - the velocity and quality, and 2 of the 5 dimensions that SPACE measures (i.e. Performance and Activity). Simply measuring DORA and using that as the only metric without considering additional factors around developer happiness may negatively impact team productivity and morale. Hence, DORA makes a good starting point for engineering teams that are just starting to measure, but should not be used as an end-all.
How Do I Get Started with SPACE Metrics?
When starting with SPACE, it is recommended to choose metrics across 3 different dimensions out of the 5. This will provide a holistic view that considers multiple factors. As an example, simply measuring Performance and Activity dimensions will provide a very quantitative, output-driven data set. Combining it with Satisfaction and Well-Being will provide a more balanced approach.
In addition, you should start with a small subset of metrics, and then add more to improve in those areas once you have some baselines established. The Development Velocity Lab (DVL) has identified a set of metrics across each of the dimensions of SPACE listed in the table below.
Based on success stories from our customers, Propelo recommends everyone to start with the highlighted set of metrics from the chosen dimensions:
Other Considerations When Using SPACE Metrics
As with all metrics, the danger is that metrics are not all-encompassing and don’t always give you the full picture of what is going on in the organization. Hence, you should keep certain considerations while using SPACE metrics:
- Include the team in the selection of metrics so everyone is on board with the goals.
- Use the metrics as a guideline and not as a goal.
- Metrics are unique to your organization and to your SDLC, and should not be compared with others.
- View trends rather than absolutes to determine impact of changes and improvements.
- Review metrics frequently so you can adjust course gradually and not make sudden shifts.
- Metrics should be measured on a team / system level, and should not be used to measure individuals.
- Transparency - metrics should be available to the entire team so they can work collectively.
- Keep individual privacy in consideration - metrics should be anonymized before sharing
- Strive for continuous improvement using metrics as guidelines.
When taking all of the above precautions, your team will benefit considerably more from these metrics. Ultimately, metrics do not provide the complete picture of performance. It's up to you to fill in the gaps.
The SPACE framework is more than just a set of metrics - it provides a holistic view into the state of the engineering organization. It takes into account the well-being of the individuals, as well as the overall satisfaction with the company and their roles. It measures the various dimensions across teams, individuals and the organization and takes into account collaboration, communication, and overall productivity.
The SPACE framework provides engineering leaders data-led insights into overall developer happiness and productivity. With the right set of metrics, engineering leaders can build more sustainable and balanced practices for their development organizations.
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