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Monitor Productivity with 6th Sense Analytics

SaaS solution to monitor productivity is now offered by 6th Sense Analytics.

Development managers can keep tabs on their teams and projects through various portfolio management and IT governance solutions, but those tools require a fair amount of manual input and involvement.

Then there's the fact that development is increasingly done in a distributed fashion, with teams scattered across the globe.

North Carolina-based 6th Sense Analytics is offering visibility into distributed projects through its Software as a Service solution, which automatically collects productivity data as developers do their thing.

"I can see this having big appeal for [managers] who are doing things offshore, and may not have as much trust," says Forrester analyst Carey Schwaber.

The software consists of a series of "software sensors" that integrate into a range of development tools, from IDEs like Visual Studio 2005 to debugging software.

The sensors automatically send information back to servers hosted by 6th Sense. There, an analytic engine aggregates the data and presents it via a flashy, dashboard -- like Web interface. Users can also develop their own sensors.

Productivity is analyzed through two basic categories. The first is "Active Time," a measurement of how developers are dividing their attention among various tasks, such as coding, testing and debugging.

The second regards "flow time" -- periods of 20 minutes or more when developers work without interruption. The company believes developers are highly focused -- "in the groove" -- and perform better during such periods. The point of identifying flow time is to help managers spot productivity trends based on data about changing tasks and interruptions.

6th Sense Analytics' service aggregates productivity data and presents it with a dashboard-like interface.
[click image for larger view]
6th Sense Analytics' service aggregates productivity data and presents it with a dashboard-like interface.

"We're applying automation to a task that has traditionally been done manually," says 6th Sense CEO Greg Burnell. "When a project gets under duress, typically the first thing to go out the window is management reporting."

But surely, that may not be the initial reaction from rank-and-file developers to the 6th Sense product, which arguably has Big Brother-like overtones.

Burnell stresses that his company is not in the spying business. "There's no secret install of this. ... We think people are very quickly going to get comfortable when they see the analytics," he says.

Forrester's Schwaber offers high praise for 6th Sense's approach. "Lots of people are doing dashboards, but nobody else is doing the automatic collection of data. Most tools that use dashboards really require a lot of legwork on the back-end," she says.

The Personal Edition of 6th Sense Analytics' solution is free. The Team Edition, which includes the ability to compile project metrics, costs $960 per user per year.

About the Author

Chris Kanaracus is the news editor for Redmond Developer News.

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