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Latest Uplevel tool enables software engineering efficiency

With Project Explorer, Uplevel enables development teams to improve efficiency by identifying potential risks and monitoring the overall health of projects.

Uplevel today unveiled Project Explorer, an interactive dashboard designed to improve software engineering efficiency by tracking the health of projects, identifying risks that could affect deadlines and discovering other factors that might negatively affect project outcomes or team members' productivity.

Uplevel, a startup based in Seattle and founded in 2018, emerged from stealth in January 2020 with a platform that uses machine learning and organizational science to compile data about software engineers as they go about their daily work in order to help them become more effective.

With wasted time a big problem for software engineers and data scientists who are often kept from carrying out tasks by a heavy load of meetings and a morass of messages, Uplevel monitors messaging platforms like Slack and Teams, collaboration software including Jira, calendar tools such as Outlook and code repository software such as GitHub.

In June 2020 -- about three months into the pandemic -- Uplevel introduced a series of analytics tools aimed at improving both software engineering efficiency and monitoring the state of mind of developers as they worked in isolation.

Now, with Project Explorer -- which is generally available as part of the Uplevel platform -- Uplevel is tackling project efficiency by giving managers and engineers metrics they can use to better understand the health and potential success of their ongoing efforts.

Uplevel developed the tool, in part, in response to customer feedback, according to Ravs Kaur, the vendor's CTO. Customers told Uplevel they were struggling to detect execution risk, she said.

"What they want to do is make sure projects are on track, and usually they find out too late if it's not," Kaur said. "It's hard to understand if the right collaboration is happening. We wondered if we could create something that would help them see into projects in a data-driven way and make it easy to ring the alarm bells as soon as [projects falter]."

A Project Explorer dashboard from Uplevel.
A Project Explorer dashboard from Uplevel enables a manager to monitor the health of development projects and work being done by engineers.

Adding insight

When using Project Explorer, managers can improve software engineering efficiency by seeing if unplanned work is delaying a sprint and how the work is distributed among team members to reduce overload on any given person. Managers also get a view of Jira activity and project health metrics such as the time spent fixing bugs versus the time spent developing features.

Software developers, meanwhile, can use Project Explorer to improve engineering efficiency by tracking past and current projects to understand patterns and seek help when needed. With the dashboard, they are able to understand their own workload limits, know when problems typically pop up, and see who is available to collaborate when help is needed.

Project Explorer is another unique tool from Uplevel, according to Mike Leone, senior analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group.

Uplevel continues to add differentiation to an already unique platform that helps improve the effectiveness of engineering teams.
Mike LeoneSenior analyst, Enterprise Strategy Group

"Uplevel continues to add differentiation to an already unique platform that helps improve the effectiveness of engineering teams," he said. "It further simplifies the presentation and consumption of project and engineering-related data [and] will speed up insight discovery through an easy-to-consume dashboard."

That insight discovery, he continued, has significant value to an organization beyond an isolated project or individual developer.

"Organizations are pressed now more than ever to be more agile," Leone said. "Understanding the who, what, when, where, why and how across all historic and ongoing software engineering projects could add massive value in achieving goals of improved agility and predictability in project planning and outcomes."

Meanwhile, Project Explorer has already been shown to be beneficial to customers who participated in its testing phase.

Zipwhip is a messaging vendor whose platform enables customers to send bulk SMS messages to quickly reach a wide audience. The company has been using Project Explorer and is now able to get a better overview of projects as they're happening than it could before, according to Suresh Nallamilli, a senior engineering manager at Zipwhip.

"Project Explorer brought in a unified view of development activities by bringing in Jira epics and GitHub activities together with the option to drill down at project or epic level," he said. "Project Explorer is giving me a bird's-eye view of all the development activities in my team [and] I can quickly drill down into the details if I need more information on a specific project or initiative."

Roadmap

While Project Explorer can give particular insight into whether development teams are spread too thin and demonstrate that unplanned work is taking too long, Kaur -- who like Nallamilli is already using the tool to monitor Uplevel's projects and developers -- said more detection capabilities are planned to better enable software engineering efficiency.

Among them are tools available elsewhere in the Uplevel platform that will be integrated with Project Explorer such as item-level warnings that show if a request has been open longer than usual or another has been picked up and dropped multiple times and remains unresolved.

In addition, Uplevel plans to bring together data about historical work patterns and current project data to get insight into whether developers are taking on more than they have in the past. Also, Uplevel plans to add real-time data about projects to understand how the sudden need to address a problem affects projects' overall timing and viability.

Beyond Project Explorer, Uplevel's roadmap includes monitoring check-ins with employees to make sure the right people are involved and looking into ways to prevent burnout. The vendor already offers a tool titled Always On that shows how long a developer is working and is designed to help developers disengage from work, but Kaur said the number of hours isn't the only indicator of potential burnout. The intensity of the work is also a factor.

"We want to show project delivery risks, but a big philosophy we have is that we want developers to be happy," Kaur said. "We have some metrics around burnout indicators, but we're bringing in others. We're on the path of combining project intelligence with people intelligence and coming up with insights and analytics."

Enterprise Strategy Group is a division of TechTarget.

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