A Guide to the Top Software Development Metrics That Will Take Your Business to the Next Level

Oct 01, 2018

Do you want to reach your business goals while feeling confident that your software meets all of the necessary requirements? Without a doubt most business owners would answer “of course”, however, the majority of owners still fail to implement these software metrics into their development processes. Instead of using these metrics, they simply let the development process run its course, which often leads to poor quality and missed deadlines. In this article, we’ll introduce and explain major software development metrics and discuss which ones work best not only for us but for our clients as well. We’ll demonstrate how everyone can benefit from software metrics and how to use these powerful tools to reach your business goals.

Metrics: What Are They and Why Does Everyone Need Them?

How to Use the Potential of Software Development Metrics Correctly?

  • Choose your own set of metrics
  • The value of the effort spent on KPI measurement shouldn’t exceed the business value.
  • Tune all necessary instruments to measure KPI
  • Communicate with your team from the beginning and check metrics regularly together with the team

Delivery Metrics

  • BurnDown Chart
  • Release BurnDown Chart
  • Velocity Chart
  • Cumulative Flow Diagram
  • Control Chart

Technical Metrics

Summing Up: Why Start Using Software Development Metrics Immediately?

Metrics: What Are They and Why Does Everyone Need Them?

Software development metrics represent a set of quantifiable measurements or parameters used for tracking and assessing the “health” of the development process.

Metrics create the ability to make efficient decisions based on objective data rather than personal feelings. In comparison to measurements, which can be done directly, metrics are more complex and require several measurements.

Software development metrics represent a set of quantifiable measurements or parameters used for tracking and assessing the “health” of the development process.

With the help of software development metrics, you can:  

  • track the team's performance
  • find out whether the quality of the product corresponds to the requirements/expectations
  • determine the delivery speed
  • pay attention to how much time is spent on each stage of the development process
  • define key areas for improvement.

Though the benefits of using software development metrics are obvious, many business owners are still conflicted about using them–some think there’s no need to use software development metrics at all, because there’s no place for bureaucracy in Agile. While others believe the more metrics–the better. But real success lies in the happy medium between these two opinions.

During each of our calls, we ask our clients how they track the performance of their software engineers. Often, the answer is, “Well, actually I do it according to my feelings: when I feel the developer has good performance–for me it’s enough.”

Sometimes, our clients say that the timely delivery of the product means the performance is unquestionably good enough, but unfortunately it doesn’t always work like this. For example, if the team failed a Sprint, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it was their fault. Perhaps a successful performance was blocked by a Scrum Master or by some third party the team was dependent on.

Our clients say that the timely delivery of the product means the performance is unquestionably good enough, but unfortunately it doesn’t always work like this. For example, if the team failed a Sprint, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it was their fault.

Being inattentive to details and simply looking at the success or failure of the Sprint leads business owners to critical mistakes in future projects. Eventually, they are disappointed by their team and try to find new developers, but until they dig deeper to find the real root of the problem–projects will continue to fail. This is why regardless of size and complexity everyone can benefit from formal metrics, which allow each step of the process to be controlled individually.

Being inattentive to details and simply looking at the success or failure of the Sprint leads business owners to critical mistakes in future projects.

How to Use the Potential of Software Development Metrics Correctly?

Choose your own set of metrics. Define the purpose of measurement, then what to measure, and finally how to measure.

Define the purpose of measurement

  • Does the developer perform well?
  • Does the quality of the product correspond to the purpose requirements? For example, track the progress: Are you on schedule or not? Will you be able to deliver the product within the set period of time?
  • Is everything done according to the common standard (PHP, JavaScript, etc) in order to receive a code that is readable, easy to sustain, clear, extensible, and works well?
  • Measurement of the entire team and its individual participants.

What to measure

Think of actionable KPI targets which will help you structure and implement all of the necessary software development metrics.  

How to measure

You can do it either manually or with the help of Jira or Excel. It’s more about the tools used and your choice.  

The value of the effort spent on KPI measurement shouldn’t exceed the business value.

If tracking software development metrics takes you half of the sprint–the Product Owner/Scrum Master/team are actually losing time that they could have spent developing the product. In addition, these metrics might not be informational. If the team checks how many bugs there have been and formulates this information manually twice a day, you’ll know how many bugs there have been. But you’ll also spend way too much time on it. In this case, it’s obvious that the time spent on structuring the reports exceeds the value it brings to the development process. Yet, if you decide to do it manually–think over every detail beforehand.      

If tracking software development metrics takes you half of the sprint–the Product Owner/Scrum Master/team are actually losing time that they could have spent developing the product.

Tune all necessary instruments to measure KPI

To save time, you can tune reports and widgets in Jira. It won’t take too much of your time–you simply log in and download reports that are currently relevant or search for reports from some other period of time. Tools can be very helpful tuned correctly. In Jira, it’s very important to formalize the set of metrics, create a page on Confluence, and write down the software development metrics that you use in your team–it’ll help keep you updated on progress rates, make informed decisions, and continuously improve the processes, etc.

To save time, you can tune reports and widgets in Jira. It won’t take too much of your time–you simply log in and download reports that are currently relevant or search for reports from some other period of time.

Communicate with your team from the beginning and check metrics regularly together with the team 

Always communicate with your team. You can appoint a Kick-off meeting when your developer starts working on your project and promote more communication throughout your cooperation. Keep in mind that you’ll need to check some of the software development metrics together with your team and good communication will help you avoid any misunderstandings.

For example, you can open a BurnDown chart at meetings and observe the progress on the Sprint. If you see a problem, you’ll need to discuss it with your team immediately and through a joint effort determine what is wrong.

Always communicate with your team. You can appoint a Kick-off meeting when your developer starts working on your project and promote more communication throughout your cooperation.

Though you’re not required to use the set of metrics disclosed below, these software development metrics will provide you with a lot of different information from different angles that will help guarantee that you reach your business goals without any incidents.

Delivery Metrics

     1. BurnDown Chart

A BurnDown Chart is a graphical representation of the work that still needs to be completed in relation to the amount of time left, these charts are widely used in Scrum/Agile development. The vertical axis in the BurnDown chart usually indicates the tasks and the horizontal one–the time. Here are three examples of BurnDown graphs with different circumstances that demonstrate how the work “burns” during a sprint.

Applicability: for teams

Examples: You can see that the vertical axis is 30 and the horizontal axis is 20. The sprint lasts 20 days (the duration of iterations), and there are 30 days or story points (general assessment of all tasks). Why 20 days in 30 days? Because there are three team members working on the team. If there were only two developers working, there would have been 40 days. So the sprint begins and the blue line shows the ideal performance plan–how the work should “burn” during the sprint.

For example, when five work days have passed–20% of work should already be completed. This means that the work should be evenly distributed throughout the sprint. Half of the time has passed–half of the tasks have been closed. As you can see below, the first graph depicts the ideal performance of the team.

Burndown chart project iteration

The next graph shows a worse scenario. The red line deviates from the basic blue line, which means there’s a problem–tasks aren’t performed or have been hanging too long with the statuses to review or to test.

Also, it’s possible that the team has underestimated the tasks and it will take them more time to perform the tasks than initially expected. There might also have been no issues with performance–maybe the team didn’t update the statuses of the tasks throughout the sprint in Jira. Another option is that tasks have hung too long in the testing stage and didn’t close until the end of the sprint. You can see that the red line suddenly falls down, meaning the whole bunch of tasks that were hanging with the status to test were closed.

Solution 1: For the next sprint–distribute testing evenly.

Solution 2: Split the tasks into several smaller parts so the developer can finish the tasks at the very beginning of the sprint and the QA engineer will be able to get down to testing. When the developer’s task is big (2-3 days task) the QA engineer will be sitting around while the developer is doing their task.

burndown chart software development metrics

The last chart shows that something went completely wrong. You can see that it’s the fifth day of the sprint and the situation is unfavorable–the line continues to deviate from the basic line further and further. The first two days were good and then something happened on the third day that stretched the graph. The graph isn’t completed so there may be several scenarios on how it continues. There’s a need to understand what goes wrong at this stage and fix it to make sure the sprint is finished successfully.

software development metrics burndown chart

Why use it: Without a BurnDown chart the product owner has no idea what’s going on. They won’t be able to see whether the team can manage tasks on time or not. Visualized software development metrics are highly informative and it doesn’t take a rocket science to understand them.

Even though developers may be working hard–it doesn’t guarantee a successful outcome.  

Worth remembering:

  • If you see the red line deviating from the basic line–try to understand why something is going wrong and correct it.
  • In Agile the team is responsible for delivery of the product and you need to conduct all metrics in relation to the team.

     2. Release BurnDown Chart

Release BurnDown is a type of BurnDown chart which provides an overview of the release progress. It is similar to the BurnDown chart, but bigger in scope–sprints instead of days.

If you’ve planned the work in advance and there’s a determined scope of releases–you can also do a burndown on releases. This will definitely help you realize whether you’ll manage to release the product by a certain date. If you see that it’s not possible, you can warn users and stakeholders about it. Otherwise, you can reduce the scope of work in order to fit it into the appropriate time frames.

     3. Velocity Chart  

Velocity chart is a software development metric used to measure the extent/size/volume of the tasks performed by the team during a sprint. It will help you make realistic estimates of the team's velocity and plan future sprints accordingly.

Applicability: for team use.

Example: The grey color depicts commitment and the green one demonstrates the actual work completed. In sprint number eight the team planned 110-115 story points while in reality 100 were completed. This means, that next time they should reduce their plan.

There may be several reasons why they failed to meet the plan. It might be as simple as one of the developers was on a sick leave and the rest of the team wasn’t able to fill this gap. Still, they planned more for the next sprint and were able to reach their goal.  

The same goes for the 10th, 12th, and 14th sprints. The 11th sprint was even more successful than expected. As you can see, the 13th sprint was a complete failure. There are a few potential scenarios that might have lead to this unexpected result. For example a 3rd party was required to provide an IP but failed to do so.

velocity chart software development metrics

Why use it: This chart gives you information about the performance of the sprints and the extent to which the performance and commitment comply. After you have compared 5-7 sprints, you can simply determine the direct average among the performance rates of different sprints which will help you plan next sprints more objectively.

Worth remembering:

  • Take into account the specifics of your team–it must be highly dedicated and stable.
  • Whenever someone leaves the team or someone new is added in–your velocity will always reflect this change and suffer a bit.

     4. Cumulative Flow Diagram

Cumulative Flow Diagram is an area chart which shows various statuses of the tasks in a backlog to spot any issues that a team may be facing. It includes summary information about the project, work-in-progress, completed tasks, testing, and velocity.

Applicability: for team use             

Example: On the metric below you can see the number of tasks that haven’t been started yet. The graph shows that from the beginning of the year, when the project was initially started, tasks have been continuously falling behind into the backlog. The main idea is to make sure the complete part is as close to the top as possible.

Tasks that appear shouldn’t break away from the tasks that are in all other statuses. But if they do break away it means that the capacity of the team is insufficient and you need to add more people. Otherwise, the backlog will endlessly keep rolling over.  

cumulative flow diagram software development metrics

Why use it: The graph you see is actually a standard Jira functionality. It’s very convenient and easy to tune. You can enter Jira analytics and see everything you need. You can even display it on the screen to make sure the team can continuously track the progress made. The general idea of this diagram is to control the rates of the backlog. Based on it, you can make conclusions about the efficiency of the processes and sufficiency of the development resources.

Worth remembering:

If the violet, green, and red lines become thicker than not started and complete lines–this is a reason to start thinking about adding developers to your team.

The thicker the lines–the more tasks there are currently at a certain status. It is in your best interest to make the line complete grow thicker.

If the line started grows and completed stays on the same level–do something, maybe you need to add people.

     5. Control Chart

Control Chart is a software development metric that shows the duration of the task from start to completion. It’s referred to as lead time–the time of development of each task.

Example: Each circle on the chart indicates a task. If you run your mouse over them in Jira, you’ll see the key of the task, its code, and the lead time–time spent on its implementation. Correspondingly, on the bottom axis you can see the date when the task was closed, while the vertical axis shows the time spent.

Applicability: Scrum Masters and Product Owners use it to control the efficiency of the development process.

control chart software development metrics

Why use it: With the help of a Control Chart you can analyze your team's past performance, measure the effect of a process change on your team's productivity, provide your stakeholders with the ability to see your team's performance, and for Kanban, use past performance to set targets for your team. [Atlassian.com]

These are the main delivery metrics–charts that are conveniently depicted in Jira and these are enough to ensure you deliver your product successfully.

Technical Metrics

Code-based software development metrics show the quality of the technical part of your project. Using such metrics will allow you to analyze the performance of your product from the inside and realize how significantly the “invisible” part influences the “visible.”

For example, if there’s something wrong with the technical part, the number of bugs will keep increasing, the quality of performance will keep decreasing, security quality and delivery will continue suffering.     

All of these software development metrics are usually tracked with the help of automated tools. They can be tuned by an experienced team member. A Software Architect or a Team Lead has to determine and bring in permissible limits of code duplication. Having tuned this tool, you’ll be able to see a lot of relevant things like code time frames, classes, comments in the code, duplications (3% is a very good indicator), complexity, test success (number of unit tests written by developers), dependency cycle. Always strive for the decrease of code complexity, code duplication, dependency cycles, technical debt ratio and the increase of test coverage.

technical software development metrics

Summing Up: Why Start Using Software Development Metrics Immediately?

The complexity of the software development metrics discussed in this post covered main aspects that ensure a successful outcome of the product development process:

  • Product Delivery
  • Technical Integrity

You’ll be able to finally give up second-guessing the progress rates of your project because software development metrics will provide you with all of the necessary data to control each stage of the software development lifecycle. Eventually, you’ll be able to release a high-quality product with no accompanying risks. Implementing software development metrics is also a great way to exit the vicious circle of missed deadlines, poor product quality, and systematic code failures. Just go for it and the positive results will speak for themselves!   

Implementing software development metrics is also a great way to exit the vicious circle of missed deadlines, poor product quality, and systematic code failures.

Read also:

How to Set Up Software Development Team Organization That Will Kickstart Your Business

How to Protect the Confidentiality of Your Sensitive Data with Security Testing

Thinking of Hiring Offshore Developers? Check Whether Your Company Is Ready

    About the Author:

olena herasymchuk digital content creator daxxOlena Herasymchuk is a tech-driven Digital Content Creator at Daxx. She is eager to discover latest trends of the IT world and share valuable insights with the readers of the Daxx blog. 


 

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