One of the most common questions in the Developer and Community Relations industry is how to measure success. What OKRs and KPIs should be used for a DevRel team? How does a Community Manager show true growth? What stats are important when it comes to a Developer Advocate?

One of the biggest hurdles we encounter before beginning to answer these questions is the understanding of what we’ll call “classic metrics”. In your average position, a sales position for example, you can look at number of new customers or sign-ups over a given period of time or look at the Monthly Recurring Revenue growth. These metrics are easy to measure and easy to see - just check the company bank account. With DevRel, it’s less straightforward than that.

We used to (somewhat flippantly) say DevRel was measured in hugs and high-fives! When the field was still nascent, this jocular answer worked. No one knew how to measure the things we did so we were able to get along without too many measuring factors while learning to crawl, then learning to walk. Now that DevRel is up and running like a toddler after a rolling ball, we need to be a little more focused and organized about how we measure the things we do.

Let’s take a look at OKRs first. In successful DevRel teams we’ve worked with (YMMV), we’ve found that goal oriented measurements work better. The OKR should be focused on the work we are looking to accomplish and have very few actual numbers around it. Some examples might be “Expand Contributors to Open Source Projects” or “Mentor Potential Speakers”.

The question will inevitably come up about where the measurement of success is. We want to accomplish our OKRs by completing specific tasks as laid out in our KPIs. Here we will have more specific numbers. For example, “Increase engagement in forums by 10%” could be a KPI that rolls up to expanding contributors. Note that we are using percentages here instead of hard numbers. In general, percentages are easier to understand, easier to share, and have more meaning in context when discussing metrics.

Reporting that you had 10,000 clicks on a blogpost or 300 people at a talk at a conference is very specific, but lacks context. Questions will come up like, is 10,000 clicks above average? Does a click mean someone read it? 300 people came to the talk, was the conference multi-track, and if so, is that a large number or a small number of the people total attendance? Did any leave, were they paying attention?

What we’ve done is create confusion, not a clear picture of success. In comparison, saying we’ve seen 15% more people reading this blog post or we spoke at a conference and 25% of attendees were engaged in the talk over 7 concurrent tracks. This shows the value we are creating and able to roll up into our OKRs.

Without the guardrails of standard measurements there is sometimes a temptation to “juice” numbers we can’t clearly obtain. Especially when our activities are measured in ways that don’t coincide with our actual work, like Market Qualified Leads (MQLs) or sign ups. These are great measurements for Developer Marketers, but as we’ve pointed out before, we work adjacent with these teams, we do not have the same goals. We should focus on the things we know.

Top of funnel activity is NOT the responsibility of DevRel. Our metrics should not be tied into Sales, return on investment (ROI), or sign-ups. Our focus is on working with our communities, letting them know our companies care about those communities, that we’re communicating with them. Sometimes, in the beginning, we are simply measured on how well we have let the community know our company or product exists.

Like many things in DevRel, our measurements and metrics are dependent on what we want to focus on. Learning more about metrics and when they are valuable is important to the things we do and the things our organizations want us to do. In that vein, take a look at two great books on metrics Weapons of Math Destruction by Cathy O’Neil and The Tyranny of Metrics by Jerry Z Muller.

We can get to a better place by measuring the things that matter. We can learn to build OKRs and KPIs that service our communities and our products and companies without compromising by using metrics built for teams that do other things. Define what you believe success is and it will be easier to find ways to measure it.