Uplevel Blog

How engineering teams can do more with less amid economic uncertainty

When times are tough, you have to work with what you have. But doing “more with less” doesn’t have to mean cutting resources. It can also mean removing obstacles to get more done.
Author: uplevel
Tags: Blog

Facing a tough economic climate, many engineering teams are under immediate pressure to do more with less. While that can mean something different for every team, it often means less hiring, or in some cases reducing the team size. However, engineering is still asked to support the business’ needs, which can be a big challenge to manage.

The most successful teams are those that take a data-driven approach to resource allocation, focusing on how to make their processes more cost-effective — instead of just cutting resources. Regardless of your specific challenge, team size, or startup stage, data can help ensure that your developers are working on the right priorities — and doing so in an efficient and sustainable way.

Perhaps you’re struggling to fill a knowledge gap caused by attrition or just looking for more efficient ways to work. By leveraging data to surface actionable insights for your teams, you can cut down on the true obstacles to business growth, helping redefine what it means to “do more with less” in a bear market.

Doing more with less misalignment

Are you investing in the right priorities? How do you continue to grow without over-hiring or burning out your people?

When resources are stretched, you must make sure you’re allocating headcount to the right business goals. The best-run teams do this with a data-oriented approach to understanding where their time is currently going. By maintaining visibility into your team’s allocation insights, you can map their projects to specific investment areas. This data helps align development efforts with business objectives, enabling headcount planning based on actual product effort investment. 

Here are three of the most common discrepancies among engineering teams: 

  1. Businesses are overinvesting in products that aren’t big revenue drivers relative to others. Using allocation data, teams can reprioritize their work to focus on the highest revenue opportunities, which can be even more critical in a bear market.
  1. Devs are spending a large portion of their time on bug fixes and keep-the-lights-on activities (KTLO). These insights can be used to justify tech debt investments to lessen that load, and it could even fast-track delivery once the market swings up again. 

  2. One of the most frustrating things for developers can be time spent in meetings. Many groups spend more time in meetings than in high-priority investment areas. That could indicate that collaboration is starting to cut into productivity, and they may need to make sure requirements are clear, corporate overhead meetings are minimized, and that everyone is empowered to decline non-critical meeting requests to protect their time.

Doing more with less burnout

Your team’s velocity may have been better than ever last sprint, but did it come at the expense of their health? Are your people ready to quit as a result? To avoid burnout and reduce attrition, leading companies are using “People Health” metrics to identify burnout risk before it’s too late to recover. 

Here’s how you can use the data to keep your teams healthy and productive in a bear market:

  1. Provide plenty of Deep Work time. Giving devs a space for uninterrupted problem solving is a cornerstone of engineering effectiveness. When your Deep Work scores are low, eliminating unnecessary meetings or distractions can help make room for more focused productivity. Aim for blocks of two-plus hours for Deep Work.
  1. Minimize context switching between tasks. Too much can overwhelm devs and decrease productivity, putting them at risk for burnout. Find out what’s pulling your devs away from their regular work — meetings, chats, bug fixes, or other tasks — and work with them to make changes. 
  1. Establish sustainable Always On scores. A proxy for burnout, Always On data shows if your teams are working long after their regular hours or on weekends. Keep an eye on Always On behavior to better support your team’s work-life balance.

Attrition isn’t inevitable, but amid market uncertainty, organizations must be proactive in how they retain their people. You can’t always avoid layoffs or stop your devs from leaving, but you can create a healthy, effective environment for those who remain.

Doing more with less busywork

When times are a little tighter, some basic automation can really help make sure your engineering teams aren’t wasting their precious time on administrative work. One common admin task for engineering is monthly reporting for tax capitalization. 

This process is often done manually, taking up precious time for your engineering and finance teams. Automating the process can free them up to focus on product delivery when it matters most. Accurately reporting on capitalization activities can also return bigger savings in R&D tax credits, which can improve your cash position, monthly burn, and overall runway of the business.

Bear markets tend to bring imperfect alignment to the surface. Now more than ever, engineering leaders need to keep their teams on the same page, focused on what the business really needs to meet its goals. The successful companies will be those who can do more with less to maintain focus on business priorities, retain their people, and make the most of their time and budgets. 

See how Uplevel is using data to help teams align priorities, avoid burnout, and work more effectively. Or schedule a demo today.