At many startups, technical hires are the backbone of the business. Their role is critical. But if you don’t have a foundation in tech yourself, how do you measure their success beyond just delivering a successful product? What factors should influence how you evaluate their performance?
To learn what founders should look for — or systems they should set up — I asked eight entrepreneurs from YEC the following:
What specific metric does your company use to evaluate the success of your technical employees?
Their best answers are below:
1. Cross-Team Deadlines
You have to move fast in startups. If you can’t meet deadlines, you won’t have good momentum and it will kill your company. The people working on the product itself need to consistently meet deadlines because the rest of the business depends on it.
For instance, the marketing team may be communicating the product and its value to the market. But if their promises don’t align, it will make the company and the product look really bad. Both marketing and development must be in sync, and you must accurately time projections so marketing can do its job.
2. Availability and Execution
Building a product is a team effort, so we look at two key metrics – availability and execution. Our team is available to make sure we are in business 24/7 with 99.9 percent up time, and everyone has support anytime for any questions or issues.
Execution is trackable with tools like Github, JIRA, Pivotal etc. based on the number of issues addressed and the complexity of each issue. The key is having an execution metric independent of other broader product metrics.
It’s crucial to have a team that moves forward at a good velocity with the number of features/bugs and sticks to deadlines.
3. Internal Customer Ratings
When working on a consumer brand, the technology is often more art than science. Conversion rates are a great metric, but they don’t tell the entire story of a tech team member’s efforts. What if she built the product perfectly, but the design was flawed?
Instead, we ask our team to self-judge. “Would you recommend this person’s work to your friend’s company?” creates a Net Promoter Score for your internal team. Over time this metric allows us to see a single score that encompasses speed, accountability and quality.
4. Estimated Project Time Verses User Satisfaction
I try to sit down and talk with my employees as much as possible regarding their processes for accomplishing goals. If an employee tells me it will take them a week to complete something, I’ll try and buffer it with a couple of extra days or double it.
This way their work is meaningful, less rushed and the product and user satisfaction is at an all-time high.
5. Cost to Revenue
If what they are working on doesn’t contribute to the bottom line in some way (potentially saving a customer by making things easier, etc.) then don’t have them build it. I would try and tie every aspect of success in your business to revenue. Does it make more or doesn’t it?
It should be pretty easy to figure out which is more important. This can be tricky to do with your business, especially when you can’t see it upfront. But try to tag everything to revenue; without it your company will not be around!
6. Pivotal Tracker’s Points System
We use Pivotal Tracker to track not only the progress of our technical team but also the overall progress of our company. It’s is a fantastic product.
One of the biggest challenges most technology companies face is execution. A bottleneck can sometimes result from a communication gap between management and developers, who tend to underestimate the time necessary to complete a project.
Pivotal completely removes the time-to-deliver equation from the process and assigns points to each project. The points act as a neutral barometer, allowing for more efficient project management.
7. Development Deadlines
We have a very rigorous product development schedule. If any member of our team does not meet a deadline, then it creates a domino effect with the rest of our team and can delay other important timelines. It’s critical that our technical team can rely on each other to hit their deadlines.
8. Website Conversion Rates
Our developers need to collaborate closely with our UX team to ensure that our website is incredibly effective as a sales engine. We offer high-ticket items, so an ever-increasing conversion rate is critical to our ongoing success.
While copy, visuals and marketing play critical roles in boosting our conversion rate, so does Web development. To optimize for sales, our engineers need to configure ways to make the purchasing and checkout process easier and faster, while identifying opportunities to wow our users and drive up order totals, too.