10 Steps to Better Metrics

Carol is President, Quality Plus Technologies Inc. She is an expert in software measurement, ISO/IEC standards, software estimation, process improvement and scope management. She is co-author of four books.

An effective software measurement program is a long-term investment, not a quick fix. Here are 10 steps to ensure your organization’s metrics deliver a positive return on that investment, from more accurate cost and schedule estimation, to streamlined processes and better insights into current and future commitments.

Fred Brooks’ observation that nine women can’t make a baby in one month is perhaps the earliest and best known analogy between software development and parenting, and it’s an apt one. An effective software measurement program — like good parenting — requires careful planning, regular monitoring, and a significant long-term investment of time and energy.

Unfortunately, many organizations collect reams of data that produce negligible ROI. Metrics programs that can’t demonstrate tangible results are usually the first casualties when the budget belt tightens. My experience with software measurement and process improvement over the past 20 years indicates that management interest in software measurement follows a cyclical pattern:

  1. Management gets bitten by the measurement “bug.”

  2. Money is spent to collect and analyze software project data, often with unclear goals (“Just start collecting software project costs and other estimating/ benchmarking data”). Little thought is given to how metrics …

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