Non-Pathological Software Metrics

Stephen Frein, Comcast

As semi-scientific software professionals, we like the idea of measuring our work. In some cases, our bosses like the idea much more than we do. Yet, meaningful software development metrics are notoriously challenging to define, and many people have given up trying because metrics often incentivize pathological behaviors. Since you get what you measure, most metrics lead development teams to optimize numeric proxies for success rather than the goals these proxies were intended to represent. Mindful of the pitfalls of quantifying knowledge work, Stephen Frein examines some typical software development metrics and why measuring them tends to be harmful. Then he recommends alternate metrics—such as “truck number”—that give software development teams a chance to engage in meaningful measurement with a lower risk of harmful side effects. If you want or need to measure your team’s success without ruining it, join Stephen for helpful advice.

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