Lean Metrics for Agile Software Configuration Management


More guidelines:

  • Keep them lightweight - start light and see what happens. If you are getting interesting results, consider some deeper investigations into a particular area.
  • Review and discard when appropriate - Metrics often have a shelf life - what was useful at one point in your development cycle or state of your development process can become irrelevant or not cost-effective later on. Some metrics are always useful, some have temporary value only. 
  • Make the tools do the work - dig metrics out of log files or by analyzing your repository rather than by forcing developers to enter extra keywords and fields. Ask yourself the question: "What are the minimum things developers need to do to get their work done?", and "What can we gather without extra input?" As Joel Spolsky puts it: "People add so many fields to their bug databases to capture everything they think might be important that entering a bug is like applying to Harvard. End result: people don't enter bugs, which is much, much worse than not capturing all that information."
  • Finally - Don't abuse your metrics! Use them in a trustworthy and transparent way (see the previous. If you use metrics to punish (or reward) individuals, it can utterly kill collaboration & cooperation. People will will quickly learn to give you what you measure (as per the quote from Eliyahu Goldratt at the start of this article) and management will reward mercenary motion over palpable progress. If instead you collect and publish the metrics in a spirit of openness, collaboration, cooperation, and continuous improvement, they can add tremendous value!

We close by noting that some have described CM as the part of the software development process that is most like assembly-line manufacturing. It is in this vein that we offering the following quote:

"There are five golden metrics that really matter: total cost, total cycle time, delivery performance, quality and safety. All others are subordinate."
--from Manufacturing’s Five Golden Metrics

About the author

Brad Appleton's picture Brad Appleton

Brad Appleton is a software CM/ALM solution architect and lean/agile development champion at a large telecommunications company. Currently he helps projects and teams adopt and apply lean/agile development and CM/ALM practices and tools. He is coauthor of the book Software Configuration Management Patterns, a columnist for the CMCrossroads and AgileConnection communities at Techwell.com,  and a former section editor for The C++ Report. You can read Brad's blog at blog.bradapp.net.

About the author

Steve Berczuk's picture Steve Berczuk

Steve Berczuk is a Principal Engineer and Scrum Master at Fitbit. The author of Software Configuration Management Patterns: Effective Teamwork, Practical Integration, he is a recognized expert in software configuration management and agile software development. Steve is passionate about helping teams work effectively to produce quality software. He has an M.S. in operations research from Stanford University and an S.B. in Electrical Engineering from MIT, and is a certified, practicing ScrumMaster. Contact Steve at steve@berczuk.com or visit berczuk.com and follow his blog at blog.berczuk.com.

About the author

Robert Cowham's picture Robert Cowham

Robert Cowham has long been interested in software configuration management while retaining the attitude of a generalist with experience and skills in many aspects of software development. A regular presenter at conferences, he authored the Agile SCM column within the CM Journal together with Brad Appleton and Steve Berczuk. His day job is as Services Director for Square Mile Systems whose main focus is on skills and techniques for infrastructure configuration management and DCIM (Data Center Infrastructure Management) - applying configuration management principles to hardware documentation and implementation as well as mapping ITIL services to the underlying layers.

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