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In Search of Lost Time: Garden’s Developer Productivity Survey

Jon Edvald
Mike Winters
March 31, 2021

Learn how tech teams are actually spending their time—and how it could be costing companies up to $61 billion per year.

You can download a free copy of the full survey report here.

We founded Garden because we were frustrated by the developer experience in the era of microservices and Kubernetes.

So frustrated, in fact, that we decided to quit our jobs and start a company so we could spend all of our time helping others to solve the problems we’d dealt with.

Our frustration was not something abstract—it was a direct result of all the time we wasted on repetitive work that didn’t add any value to the business. Routine tasks like setting up environments, waiting for tests, and troubleshooting CI pipelines took hours every week. We wanted to put all of our energy into building and shipping new products, but we simply couldn’t.

Over the past three years, we’ve spoken to many Garden users and customers who shared our frustrations. We know that staying productive on Kubernetes is a challenge in organizations of all shapes and sizes.

But we wanted to get a better sense of just how big the problem is, to really quantify it—especially outside of the Garden universe. To do so, we commissioned a survey to learn more about how developers are spending their time in the cloud native era, what they’re struggling with, and where there are opportunities to improve the development process.

And we wanted our results to be as credible as possible. So we engaged Vanson Bourne to field a survey of 400 developers and DevOps team members in the U.S., U.K., and Germany, including: CTOs, VPs and head of departments, director/managers and non-managerial respondents. The survey was fielded in January-February 2021, with respondents coming from a range of industries. Vanson Bourne rigorously screened interview candidates to ensure suitability and data quality.

Given the frustrations we’d felt as developers, the survey results didn’t surprise us. But they certainly made us more confident that there’s a huge opportunity to help development teams save time and make their processes more efficient.

Let’s look at some of the highlights. And if you’d like to see our complete report, you can download it here.

Frustration with slow feedback loops

We asked respondents to rank the top 3 things that cause them the most frustration at their job.

54% of respondents identify slow feedback loops during the development process as a major (top 3) frustration, second only to difficult communication between teams and functional groups (55%).

And “slow feedback loops during the development process” was the frustration that was most frequently ranked #1, with 20% of respondents ranking it as their top frustration.

54% of respondents are frustrated by slow feedback loops during the development process

It makes sense, once you see the sheer number of hours respondents spend on tasks like setting up and waiting for pipelines, waiting for builds and tests, and setting up development environments.

How time is actually being spent—and what the cost could actually be

Respondents spend, on average, more than 15 hours every week on tasks outside of writing application code—from maintaining internal tooling, to setting up dev environments, to debugging pipelines, to waiting for builds and test results.

The economic cost is massive—in the US alone, this time spent could be costing companies up to $61 billion/year*.

Let's look at what respondents are actually spending time on.

And this doesn’t even take into consideration the opportunity cost of keeping developers from higher-value work. Imagine the potential if every software developer could reclaim an extra day every week.

Something that surprised us: there’s very little variation in these hours-spent metrics even when segmenting the data by respondent department (Application Development & SWE vs. DevOps) and seniority level (CTOs, VPs and Head of Department vs. Director/Manager vs. Non-managerial).

Despite the promise of DevOps to enable greater focus and productivity for developers, respondents at all levels and across departments are spending more than a working day and a half every week on work outside of writing code.

How do respondents wish they were spending their time?

A clear majority of respondents acknowledge they’re not spending their time as effectively as they could. In fact, more than 75% of respondents say the time they spend on specific tasks is time wasted, suggesting it could be put to more strategic use.

Let's look at what respondents are actually spending time on.

Respondents also have a clear sense of what they’d rather be spending their time on: tasks that directly support the company’s bottom line.

  • 49% of these respondents say they would develop new products and services to support the company
  • 46% say they would improve speed and delivery of existing products and services
  • 44% say they would improve security for existing products and services

So what are we going to do about it?

In short: we’re going to keep on doing what we’ve been doing. At Garden, our broader mission is to eliminate as much unnecessary wasted time from the dev process as we can.

And we’re more confident than ever that the pains we want to relieve—the tediousness of setting up production-like environments, the hours wasted on slow tests and builds, the frustration of troubleshooting CI errors—do, in fact, account for a huge number of wasted developer hours, even beyond the Garden user base.

All of that to say: we’ve got our work cut out for us.

And if the problems we described sound familiar, we’re eager to help you and your team create a faster and more efficient Kubernetes development process.

Even if you aren’t sure that Garden’s the right fit, we’re happy to have a conversation and to hear what kinds of problems you’re running into—just get in touch with us to schedule time to talk.

To see our complete survey analysis, you can download the report for free.

And to learn more about Garden and to get started, check out our website.

* Based on median pay and number of software developer jobs in 2019, as reported by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics

* Based on median pay and number of software developer jobs in 2019, as reported by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics