Case studies

dbt Labs: Unlocking developer productivity with DX insights

dbt Labs
Eliminated almost all time spent on survey and metric administration, freeing up significant operational resources
Increased developer survey participation rate from 50% to over 90%
Drove 25% of engineering teams across the company to begin organically improving DevEx

The Engineering Operations & Engineering Enablement teams at dbt Labs are dedicated to creating leverage and removing bottlenecks for the engineering organization. However, prior to using DX, these teams didn’t have a systematic way to identify, understand, and prioritize the most pressing problems getting in developers’ way. 

The dbt Labs team began solving this challenge at the department level by developing an internal developer survey using Google Forms. However, the team faced immediate challenges related to survey design, survey engagement, and longitudinal insights. The resulting homegrown survey data lacked insights at a level where the enablement teams felt they could take action with a high confidence interval.

They turned to DX to get a holistic view of the engineering organization’s pain points, while cutting the time involved in designing and running their own survey. “There is no doubt that DX made sense from a business impact, cost, and time perspective. We believe that engaged and happy developers are the most productive, and the DX survey quickly allowed us to pinpoint where developers were feeling the most pain and friction in their workflows. DX has enabled us to better understand the landscape of challenges our developers face,” says Brian Webb, who leads the Engineering Operations function at dbt Labs. 

DX enabled our engineering internal services team and the entire engineering organization to address the highest impact and most painful developer feedback points. Which, in turn, also gives us an opportunity to keep our developers happy.”
- Brian Webb, Head of Engineering Operations

DX offered several advantages over the manual surveys dbt Labs had been running:

  • Efficiency: DX removed manual work from running surveys, reducing the time and number of teams involved in designing, rolling out, and analyzing a survey each quarter.
  • Research-backed metrics: DX gave dbt Labs confidence in their data by measuring the factors that drive developer productivity improvements. 
  • Participation: Prior to using DX, dbt Labs was seeing ~50% response rates on their engineering surveys. Now that they use DX, they get 90%+ participation rates. This helps them ensure the results they’re getting are complete and accurate. 
  • Team-level action and follow-through: DX drives developer engagement with surveys as well as with follow-through actions. After using DX, teams across the company started organically prioritizing and taking action on team-level areas of friction, without the EngOps or Enablement team prompting them to do so. This resulted in DevEx improvements organization-wide, multiplying the impact the EngOps  and Enablement team could have had on their own.

Today, dbt Labs uses DX as a central point of reference to identify problems that are blocking developers or causing unnecessary cognitive load. The EngOps team has been able to multiply their impact while saving time from running surveys, interviews, or instrumenting quantitative metrics. Teams across the organization have been able to include DevEx improvements as part of their regular feature work, leading to significant productivity and satisfaction gains across the company. 


Prior to DX, it was difficult to bring concrete evidence and data to justify where we needed to better enable engineers. Post-DX adoption, we see engineering leaders at all levels actively bringing forward DX data points in conversations to point to the highest impact developer pain points that need to be solved.”
- Brian Webb, Head of Engineering Operations

 

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