Is the Pandemic Making Software Teams More Productive?

Although the long-term impact on productivity of working from home remains to be determined, many software teams have seen "demonstrable benefits" from working remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a newly published report.

The report, "The Future of Remote Work and Software Development," was based on the results of a survey of 347 technology professionals around the world conducted between August 24 and September 4, 2020 by Accelerated Strategies Group (ASG). The report was commissioned by CloudBees, a leading provider of tools and solutions for continuous integration and delivery (CI/CD), to get a better understanding of the long-term impact of a decentralized workforce on software development and delivery.

The results of this survey indicate that, for some organizations at least, virtual work is helping software teams to become more productive.

A majority of respondents to the ASG survey (59.49%), reported that their software teams are significantly or somewhat more productive than they were prior to the advent of the pandemic. And 42.6% of respondents said it has become somewhat easier to complete their work tasks in a timely fashion, now that the team is working remotely. However, feedback concerning respondents' ability to manage unproductive distractions was mixed: 39.7% said managing these distractions was somewhat or much easier, 36.36% said it was somewhat or much harder, and 23.48% said they'd had no change in their ability to manage these distractions. In general, the data showed that software teams are working more closely with product management, project management, operations and security.

The survey revealed what the researchers characterized as "a shift in IT priorities" due to the pandemic and its economic impact. Nearly two-thirds (63%) of the survey respondents said digital transformation objectives have somewhat or significantly increased in priority. Slightly more than half said their organizations placed higher priorities on increasing their DevOps initiatives (52%) and contracting with public cloud service providers (52%) as a result of the pandemic restrictions. And other DevOps initiatives are advancing as well, with about half saying their firms are now practicing daily standup meetings (56%), using cross-functional teams (46%), and automating tasks (43%).

Surprisingly, the survey results showed that the pandemic has actually "reduced some of the burdens on software teams." For example, 61% of respondents found it easier to work across time zones, specifically indicating the newfound ease of working with staffers on different continents (39%).

"While COVID-19 has had a traumatic impact on the well-being and health of many respondents," said Mitchell Ashley, CEO and managing analyst at ASG, "the shift to remote work gives us some insights into how businesses may look as they continue to adapt and recover. Software teams and other business functions have seen demonstrable benefit from working remotely, though time will tell which changes are permanent and/or beneficial in the mid-to-long term."

The survey responses offer strong evidence that IT organizations aren't sitting back during the pandemic, said Shawn Ahmed, senior vice-president and general manager of CloudBees' Software Delivery Automation group, in a statement. Instead, they're asking IT to be more strategic and dev teams take steps to increase cross-company collaboration and become more efficient at software delivery.

"Software, DevOps, and CI/CD automation will play key roles in the post-pandemic recovery," Ahmed said, "and organizations are putting a high priority on these areas right now."

About the Author

John K. Waters is the editor in chief of a number of sites, with a focus on high-end development, AI and future tech. He's been writing about cutting-edge technologies and culture of Silicon Valley for more than two decades, and he's written more than a dozen books. He also co-scripted the documentary film Silicon Valley: A 100 Year Renaissance, which aired on PBS.  He can be reached at [email protected].