British development teams are amongst the most productive, but could be more risk-averse.
Image: Matthew Henry/Burst

British developers might have an edge over their counterparts in the US and elsewhere in the world, with new data suggesting that programmers from the UK deliver twice as much code as the global average.

CI/CD platform CircleCI took data from over 55 million data points, across 44,000 organizations and 160,000 projects, to measure the number of times software teams submitted new code every day.

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It then used the median of this number to determine each country’s throughput – the primary metric CircleCI used to measure productivity.

CircleCI found that the average UK throughput was 1.26 – over 80% higher than the global average of 0.7. It also determined that UK developers were 19% more efficient than those in France, and 35% more than their German industry equivalents.

Data was collected via CircleCI’s platform for 30-day periods starting on the first day of August 2019, March 2020, April 2020, May 2020, and August 2020. The data measured metrics including success rate, throughput, mean time to recovery, and duration.

Despite high productivity levels, the data suggested that UK engineering teams were not innovating as much as in the US and other parts of the world.

A ‘success rate’ measure, which assumes failures in testing to be a signal of innovative risk-taking, shows the UK delivering successful code 95% of the time, compared to 83% in the US, and a global average of just 61%. CircleCI said this indicated that UK developers were more risk-averse and less likely to approach projects with a ‘fail fast’ mentality.

Nicholas Mills, CircleCI EMEA general manager, suggested that the UK’s high success rate for developing code could also indicate that innovation in the country was being held back by restrictive development environments.

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“The finance-heavy British tech ecosystem may be bogged down by legislation and unable to break the rules,” said Mills.

“But it could also be that in the US, ‘move fast and break things’ and growth at all costs is the norm; whereas in UK and Europe more widely, sustainable growth and reaching profitably sooner is often the aim for start-ups. This makes errors less desirable, as highly profitable businesses require more robust code.”

Yet with the advent of Brexit, and with the UK still lacking a globally-recognized tech brand rivaling the likes of Google or Microsoft, Mills said it was more important than ever for the UK to stake its claim as a global technology superpower.

“This report suggests that UK tech can – and arguably must – be more ambitious if it is striving to build genuinely global tech companies.”