Software Metrics

5 Rules for Using Software Quality Metrics

You want software quality metrics that matter, that cannot be gamed, and that instill confidence in everyone involved. Alright, so how does that happen? In an article for TechTarget, Gerie Owen shares five rules to get the most out of your software metrics:

  1. Develop metrics based on what info is needed and who needs it.
  2. Keep metrics simple.
  3. Measure against an objective standard.
  4. Standardize the components of the metrics.
  5. Metrics are a tool, not a solution.

Balanced Measures

Every metric you select must contain actionable information for at least one stakeholder, or else you are just collecting data for no reason. Owen even says to reject requests for metrics when the person asking does not have the power to act upon that data. Or at the least, the metric should ultimately be delivered to someone who does have that power.

Metrics should be simple enough for stakeholders to understand and for project managers to report. Likewise, the frequency with which metrics are collected should not be overly burdensome, or else it will both cut into legitimate work time and maybe make it harder to pick up trends in the data. Ideally, the metrics will be measurable against a stable number of some kind:

For example, assume the number of test cases executed this week is 50. With just that number, we have no idea how productive this week was. If we know the average number of test cases executed per week for the past 50 weeks was 10, then we know this week was very productive and we can congratulate the team. On the other hand, if the average for the past 50 weeks was 150, then the team is not doing so hot and may need encouragement or guidance.

Context needs to be applied on top of the raw numbers though. For instance, in attempting to standardize the components of metrics, you would want to come up with extremely specific common definitions that are not necessarily bound by numbers. After all, there are ways for a crisis to strike that may not necessarily be reflected in the numbers, at least not at an acceptable speed.

Finally, it must be remembered that metrics are a means to an end, and nothing more—just like a well-organized bookcase is only impressive if people care about and use the books on display. You can view the original article here: http://searchsoftwarequality.techtarget.com/tip/Five-rules-for-using-software-quality-metrics

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