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Uplevel analytics tools lift software engineering efficiency

Uplevel, a startup vendor whose focus is on improving the efficiency of software engineers, unveiled a set of new capabilities that use data to monitor software design projects.

With a continued focus on the use of analytics to improve software engineering efficiency, Uplevel recently introduced a series of new capabilities.

In July, the startup vendor, founded in 2018 and based in Seattle, unveiled Executive Insights, a new tool for the C-suite, and in August it added Sprint Health, Sprint Progress and Sprint Retro Insights to give engineering team managers better insight into projects and personnel.

"We really want to empower every level of the organization to be aligned with this data," said Joe Levy, co-founder and CEO of Uplevel. "We've been strong with the managers and developers and now we've added a rich executive view where an exec can get a visual."

New capabilities

Executive Insights is a dashboard created using the BI capabilities of Tableau that shows the activity and progress of engineering teams and is Uplevel's first tool designed for C-suite executives.

Using the dashboard, organization leaders can see such factors as which designers are getting enough deep work, which teams and individuals are spending too much time in meetings or disrupted by Slack messages, and the average project cycle times for different engineers and engineering teams.

By hovering their cursor over data points, executives can see short-term and long-term software engineering efficiency trends and filter by region, role or team to make comparisons.

"Now, execs at a glance can go right in and see that one team has pretty decent cycle times but there are some outliers that are creating bottlenecks, and they can click and see where the queues are and discover that something was maybe waiting on release," Levy said.

A sample Uplevel dashboard.
A sample dashboard from Uplevel shows the health and progress of software engineering projects.

He added that Executive Insights has gained traction quickly given that while there are plenty of platforms that take deep looks into sales pipelines and supply chains, there aren't many that give executives an easy way to look at software development pipelines.

Sprint Health and Sprint Progress are tandem tools designed to give engineering team managers insight into the momentum of individual projects.

Sprint Health provides a Health Score that takes into account project and people metrics to create a grade that indicates how well a project is moving along.

Project data includes factors like the proportion of time spent working out bugs and the prevalence of new issues cropping up during development. People data takes into account factors such as time spent free to do deep work and whether someone is "always on" and overworked or has a healthy balance between work and rest.

Sprint Progress, meanwhile, enables team managers to quickly and easily see the current progress of different projects, according to the vendor. In addition, the tool is forward-looking and is able to project the outcomes of projects.

Finally, Sprint Retro Insights uses data to turn the often anecdotal process of project reviews into a more factual one. And like the Sprint Score, it considers both project and people data to give an overview over projects.

User perspective

One Uplevel customer taking advantage of the new capabilities is Avalara, a vendor founded in 2004 and based in Seattle that provides tax compliance software.

"From a project perspective, I've started using the latest tools that they have introduced like Sprint Health and Sprint Progress to help my understanding about how we are doing on the projects," said Samrat Kumar, senior manager of software engineering at Avalara. "They give me insights that help with predictability, and I hope that our teams will start using them at an individual level."

Since its inception, Uplevel has made the use of analytics to drive software engineering efficiency its priority, and that includes using data to help monitor and understand the mental health of developers.

Among the capabilities the vendor introduced before summer 2021 were tools aimed at improving software engineering efficiency as they work in isolation during the pandemic -- including Always On -- and Project Explorer, an interactive dashboard designed to proactively discover risks that could affect project deadlines and engineers' productivity.

Having this information at my fingertips has enabled me to have more fruitful conversations and take more action. It's a great tool for helping make decisions that would have been really difficult without Uplevel.
Samrat KumarSenior manager of software engineering, Avalara

As a whole, Kumar said the Uplevel platform has enabled him to get insights into software engineering efficiency he wouldn't have been able to get without capabilities designed specifically to monitor the health of both engineering projects and also the engineers themselves.

"It helps me understand the bigger picture," Kumar said. "I'm not just looking at an individual meeting time or Slack conversation -- I'm looking at a holistic picture. Having this information at my fingertips has enabled me to have more fruitful conversations and take more action. It's a great tool for helping make decisions that would have been really difficult without Uplevel."

In particular, Kumar, who joined Avalara about 18 months ago, noted that the insights into employees at an individual level have been critical.

"When I started doing one-on-one meetings, Uplevel helped me figure out whether people are getting enough time to do deep work and whether there are distractions," he said. "It's helped me have a conversation to figure out if there's a chance of someone getting burned out or if there's something someone is really excited about. It helped me develop plans."

If there's a capability Kumar would like Uplevel to add, he said it would be to capture meeting time data from Zoom. Uplevel currently captures data from such sources as Slack, Git, Jira and employee surveys, but it does not yet capture data from Zoom and similar video conference platforms.

In addition, Kumar said he'd like to be able to customize Uplevel's platform to more closely align with Avalara's needs.

Roadmap

As Uplevel continues to add new capabilities, the goal of enabling every level of the organization to get a lens into software engineering efficiency will guide product development, according to Levy.

In addition, the vendor plans to add more alerting capabilities, particularly within the existing workflows of users. In particular, notifications within Slack -- where Levy said "every developer lives" -- are part of the roadmap.

Meanwhile, Uplevel will continue to add capabilities that use data to better understand the developers and engineers themselves as much as add capabilities that will better enable project oversight.

"We still believe very deeply that the thing that has made engineering effectiveness is not just looking at the [contributions to a project] and the Jira tickets but looking at the people," Levy said. "We really are trying to help people meet their goals by focusing on people issues."

And that means enabling organizations to not only tell engineers that they need to finish certain projects but also see that those engineers have been working overtime and are burdened with meetings, and that to finish those projects they need to be freed to do so, he continued.

"We are going to continue to look at not burning people out by putting the context of their work together with their human factors," Levy said. "You'll continue to see us push into things that are engineering tool-focused while including the human aspect."

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