Developer Productivity Measured

I often talk about the effects of lost productivity to my team and co-workers. I recently stumbled across this article (Programmer Interrupted) that was posted by a friend (Ward Pond) on his Facebook page. It is clear the impact that a single interruption can have. When you multiply that by 5 or 10 times a day on a team of 8 developers it starts to add up fast.

The first job I had was at MCI in Richardson, TX. The team I worked on was responsible for improving the efficiency of the 180 field engineers that were creating MCI’s world-wide fiber network. After a clear understanding of the problem based primarily on observation of the physical work habits of the engineers, the majority of lost productivity was identified in two areas.

  1. The time engineers spent walking down the long halls to get drawings off shared printers, sometimes waiting for their print to come of the queue (engineer not happy)
  2. The time they spent going to get coffee (engineer happy)

The average lost time per day was 75 minutes per engineer. Does not sound like a lot, but when you multiply that by 180 engineers by 2000 work days per year, it really adds up.


180 Engineers x 75 minutes lost productivity x $1.00 per minute = $13,500.00 per day lost productivity * 265 work days = $3,577,500.00 per year.

The solution at MCI was to remove the two enablers of the “Engineer Interrupted”. Each engineer was given their own large format printer and a Flavia single serve coffee maker at an annual cost of $2,800.00 per engineer (included printer coffee supplies as well as electrical work needed to be done to increased requirements of power). As a result, lost productivity per engineer per day was reduced to just 15 minutes and the measured gain in productivity was 60 minutes per engineer per day.

180 Engineers x 15 minutes lost productivity x $1.00 per minute = $2,700.00 per day lost productivity * 265 work days = $715,500.00 per year + $504,000.00 Printer & Coffee expenses = $1,219,500.00 per year.

That ended with a net gain of:

$2,358,000.00 per year!

Wish it was always this simple…

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