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What Improves Developer Productivity at Google? Code Quality

November 9, 2022

Understanding what affects software developer productivity can help organizations choose wise investments in their technical and social environment. But the research literature either focuses on what correlates with developer productivity in ecologically valid settings or focuses on what causes developer productivity in highly constrained settings. In this paper, we bridge the gap by studying software developers at Google through two analyses. In the first analysis, we use panel data with 39 productivity factors, finding that code quality, technical debt, infrastructure tools and support, team communication, goals and priorities, and organizational change and process are all causally linked to self-reported developer productivity. In the second analysis, we use a lagged panel analysis to strengthen our causal claims. We find that increases in perceived code quality tend to be followed by increased perceived developer productivity, but not vice versa, providing the strongest evidence to date that code quality affects individual developer productivity.

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Lan Cheng
Emerson Murphy-Hill
Mark Canning
Ciera Jaspan
Collin Green
Andrea Knight
Nan Zhang
Elizabeth Kammer
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