Understanding the SPACE framework and metrics

Taylor Bruneaux


The SPACE framework is a groundbreaking method of evaluating the effectiveness and satisfaction of software engineering teams. It offers a comprehensive set of metrics that cover five key areas: Satisfaction and well-being, Performance, Activity, Communication and Collaboration, and Efficiency and Flow.

Unlike conventional metrics, SPACE provides a multi-dimensional analysis of development teams. SPACE offers a complete understanding of team dynamics, which can help create a more innovative, contented, and productive software development environment. By balancing technical output with the well-being of developers, SPACE challenges conventional productivity metrics and reshapes software development practices. This exposition aims to explore the intricacies of the SPACE framework in more detail.

It’s important to note that while SPACE is a valuable tool, there are more complete solutions for understanding developer experience and productivity. In this explainer, we’ll review SPACE’s shortcomings in these areas and suggest other methods for gaining a more comprehensive understanding of developer experience.

What is the SPACE framework?

The SPACE framework is a model that helps assess and improve developer happiness and productivity in software development teams. Nicole Forsgren, Margaret-Anne Storey, Chandra Maddila, Thomas Zimmermann, Brian Houck, and Jenna Butler developed and introduced SPACE in a Microsoft Research report in 2021.

Unlike traditional productivity metrics, the SPACE framework considers more than just code output. It takes a holistic approach and considers a broad range of factors that impact software development, including the well-being of software developers. The model provides a nuanced understanding of what drives effective and happy software development practices, balancing technical achievements with the needs of developers.

What are the SPACE metrics?

SPACE metrics assess developer productivity across an engineering organization by tracking it across five dimensions: Satisfaction and well-being, Performance, Activity, Communication and collaboration, and Efficiency and flow. These dimensions of productivity can help influence how you think about productivity and what you measure.

Let’s examine each dimension more closely to understand better what it reveals about developer productivity.

Satisfaction and well-being

Developer satisfaction is defined by the level of happiness and fulfillment developers experience in their job roles, directly impacting team productivity.

Leaders can gauge employee satisfaction by conducting detailed surveys. These surveys should investigate perceptual measures of a developer’s work life, such as their roles, technology, team dynamics, work-life balance, and opportunities for personal growth.


Performance is the outcome of a system or process and measures how well the software fulfills its intended function. Performance metrics can include change failure rate, mean time to recovery, and the time it takes to complete code reviews, but rarely include measures of individual performance.

Understanding development team performance involves evaluating their efficiency and effectiveness in creating and maintaining software. Performance metrics play a critical role in this evaluation.


Activity is one dimension used to measure the work done in a software development system. It examines the count of actions and frequency of work, giving insights into the pace and workload of a development team.

Developer activity metrics provide valuable insights into the efficiency and productivity of software development processes. These metrics include the number of builds completed in a Continuous Integration/Continuous Deployment (CI/CD) pipeline, the number of releases made by the team, and the rate at which teams complete items in an Agile sprint. Through these metrics, we can start to get an idea of the pace of development and integration efforts and the team’s delivery capability and speed,

Communication and collaboration

Effective collaboration and clear communication are essential for successful software development. This dimension focuses on how team members communicate to achieve common goals. It evaluates the quality and efficiency of communication channels between team members and different teams.

To better understand teamwork and communication, survey team members for feedback on how well they collaborate and communicate and how satisfied they are with their collaborative practices. Analyzing this feedback can help identify areas of strength in team dynamics and opportunities for improvement. Successful cross-functional collaboration can also be measured by how healthy teams complete joint tasks and achieve interdependent milestones.

Efficiency and flow

Efficiency and flow highlight a development team’s ability to progress smoothly in their tasks with minimal interruptions. This aspect evaluates how effectively the team utilizes time and resources to maintain a state of concentrated productivity or flow.

Essential methods to evaluate and improve this include tracking task cycle time, onboarding time, minimizing context switching, and using Agile methodologies to streamline work processes. Feedback from team members can also reveal obstacles to efficiency, allowing for targeted improvements in work schedules, communication, and tool use.


Organizations use SPACE and DORA frameworks to assess and improve their software development practices. While SPACE is a broader framework encompassing multiple aspects of software development and engineering culture, DORA metrics focus specifically on DevOps performance and organizational capabilities.

Similarities of SPACE and DORA

SPACE and DORA aim to provide organizations with simple metrics and insights that can help improve software delivery performance, team efficiency, and overall product quality. They are grounded in research and developed based on data gathered from numerous organizations, making them evidence-based approaches to enhancing software engineering practices.

Each framework emphasizes the importance of continuous improvement and measurement, encouraging organizations to assess their performance against these metrics regularly.

Differences between SPACE and DORA

Scope and focus

SPACE covers a broader range of factors affecting software engineering. On the other hand, DORA focuses on four key metrics crucial for DevOps success: deployment frequency, lead time for changes, time to restore service, and change failure rate. DORA is tailored explicitly to improving DevOps practices, while SPACE provides a broader view of the software engineering landscape.


Developers can apply SPACE to various aspects of the software development life cycle, not just the operations or deployment phase. It considers the well-being of engineers and the effectiveness of communication within teams as crucial elements. DORA is more specific to the CI/CD pipeline and operational excellence, making it highly relevant for teams looking to optimize their DevOps processes.

When you should use SPACE

When deciding to adopt the SPACE framework for productivity measurement, consider whether it is suitable for your unique needs and circumstances. Here are some guidelines to help you make a decision.

SPACE is useful…

For establishing a comprehensive productivity definition

The SPACE framework is instrumental for team leaders who aim to create a holistic definition of productivity within their software organizations. It encompasses various aspects of work, including both quantitative output and qualitative well-being, ensuring a well-rounded approach to productivity.

In enhancing team engagement and measurement

SPACE proves valuable for leaders seeking to involve their team in measuring and improving dimensions of developer productivity. It offers a structured way to assess productivity, fostering a culture of transparency and continuous improvement.

“Our analysis is clear,” says Nicole Forsgren in Accelerate. “In today’s fast-moving and competitive world, the best thing you can do for your products, your company, and your people is institute a culture of experimentation and learning, and invest in the technical and management capabilities that enable it.”

When seeking to close measurement gaps

For dev teams and leaders looking to ensure their productivity measurement is exhaustive, SPACE provides a framework that identifies and addresses overlooked areas. This comprehensive approach helps in capturing a complete picture of productivity.

To facilitate productive discussions within developer teams

The SPACE framework aids employees having more meaningful discussions about productivity by providing a common language and structure. It encourages reflection on various dimensions of productivity, promoting a more profound understanding among team members.

SPACE is not useful…

In environments resistant to change

Organizations or leaders who are hesitant to adopt new frameworks or ways of thinking about productivity may find SPACE challenging to implement. Resistance to change can hinder the effectiveness of adopting such a comprehensive framework.

Where there is limited capacity for improvement interventions

The SPACE framework might be less beneficial when teams or leaders need more resources or authority to enact changes based on productivity insights. Its practical value diminishes without the ability to act on the framework’s insights.

When focused solely on output metrics

Teams or organizations prioritizing output metrics (like lines of code) or improvement of a single metric over outcome-based measures may only partially benefit from SPACE. The framework balances qualitative and quantitative measures, which may not align with an output-focused approach.

For short-term productivity boosts

If the goal is to achieve immediate, short-term productivity improvements, the SPACE framework’s comprehensive and reflective nature might not be the most efficient approach. The design goal of SPACE is holistic and long-term productivity enhancement rather than quick fixes.

How to get started with SPACE metrics

Teams that take a step-by-step approach to implementing SPACE have found it a valuable tool for thinking about engineering productivity. Here’s a guide to getting started on your SPACE implementation journey.

Step 1: Evaluate your current tools and processes

Assess your current situation by taking inventory of your existing tools. Your tools may include version control, build tools, infrastructure provisioning tools, project management, communication platforms, and issue-tracking systems.

After listing all the tools, you should identify gaps in your existing system. This can be done by determining which SPACE metrics your current tools are not measuring effectively. To do this, you can use the whiteboard approach, assigning metrics to different SPACE areas to see visually where the gaps are.

Step 2: Select and integrate tools

Identify tools that can measure missing SPACE metrics. Look for integrations with your existing toolset, like PR review time measurement tool that integrates with your source control provider.

Choose a small, cross-functional team to test these tools. Ensure these tools effectively capture the necessary data for the SPACE metric you’ve identified as important for your organization.

Once validated, integrate these tools across all teams. Integration may require custom configurations or the development of internal tools to ensure seamless data flow and accessibility. You can build this or leverage a tool like DX’s DevEx 360, which integrates with all significant development and productivity tools.

Step 3: Define metrics and goals

Goals and metrics across SPACE ensure that productivity improvements are balanced and holistic rather than overly focused on one aspect to the detriment of others.

For example, under the Satisfaction and well-being dimension, teams might set goals to improve work-life balance and reduce burnout rates, measure success through regular developer experience surveys, and monitor overtime hours.

For Performance, a goal could be to increase the speed of code deployment using metrics like deployment frequency and change lead time, but avoid purely quantitative metrics like lines of code.

In the Activity dimension, teams could aim to enhance high-quality code, using metrics such as commit size and the ratio of fixing commits to total commits.

Communication and collaboration goals might focus on effective team meetings, measured by the number of action items completed post-meetings versus those planned, alongside metrics measured in surveys.

For Efficiency and flow, goals could include reducing the time spent on manual testing by implementing more automated tests, with metrics like the percentage of code covered by automated tests and the cycle time saved on testing processes.

Step 4: Implement measurement and reporting systems

Use developer experience tools to automate data collection for SPACE metrics. Reporting is another area where you can build your solution or leverage a solution such as DevEx 360 to save time on development and implementation.

You can create or customize dashboards that display real-time data on SPACE metrics. Ensure these dashboards are accessible to all relevant stakeholders.

Then, establish a routine for reviewing these metrics at different levels (e.g., entire team, department, organization) to monitor progress and identify areas for improvement.

Step 5: Foster a culture of continuous improvement

Workshops or training sessions can be conducted to educate team members about the importance of SPACE metrics and how each can contribute. Encourage open discussions about these metrics in team meetings and decision-making processes.

Use metrics as a tool to track progress and identify areas of improvement rather than a means of punishment for individual developers. Regularly seek feedback from the team on the tools, metrics, and goals. Be prepared to adjust the tools, metrics, and goals as the organization evolves.

What comes after SPACE metrics?

After establishing a foundation with SPACE metrics, the next step in evolving your approach to understanding the full picture of developer productivity involves a deeper focus on developer experience (DevEx).

The DX25 framework, co-developed by Dr. Margaret-Anne Storey—who also contributed to the SPACE framework—offers a comprehensive method of productivity measures. It encompasses KPIs and specific metrics, emphasizing developer satisfaction and the subjective aspects of the developer experience. This focus makes DX25 an ideal progression for teams seeking to build upon the SPACE metrics with a method that more accurately reflects the nuances of developer sentiments and experiences.

The SPACE framework, while valuable, is not a panacea for measuring developer productivity. Dr. Storey has clarified that SPACE has created some misconceptions about developer productivity. The metrics within SPACE were intended as illustrative examples rather than prescriptive standards. Organizations should be cautious of adopting a one-size-fits-all approach to productivity metrics. The successful application of SPACE—and, by extension, DX25—requires careful selection, customization, and metrics integration to suit specific organizational contexts and goals.

April 10, 2024

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