The Case for Metrics

What would business be like without a profit-and-loss statement? What would baseball be like without earned run averages and on-base percentages? For most organizations, the lack of legacy metrics is only partially a matter of technical and methodological issues; it may be a prototypical example of the challenge posed by organizational culture.

Although many organizations thus find it difficult to maintain a history of their projects, estimates, and actuals, other organizations do commit to measurement programs and reap dividends. The results of these programs are striking. For example, a recent report on 500 IS organizations found that between 25 and 30 percent (even up to 60 percent) of effort in the few organizations that succeeded in instituting a metrics program is focused on corrective actions on an installed system (in classic quality terms, this is pure rework).

A growing body of support for metrics is originating outside the IS organization in the product and embedded software communities within the business. These outside customers will not return for more poor-quality software. Thus, the issue of metrics is best understood as being fundamentally a cultural conflict and a managerial challenge within IS. The main issue is that as long as solid knowledge about past performance is impossible to find, reliable assessments of future performance remain out of reach. As the following sections indicate, many categories of legacy activity lend themselves to accurate measurement.

Product Measurements How many lines of code were generated, changed, reengineered? How many function points were delivered or modified? How many defects were embedded along the way and how many errors were discovered before delivery? After delivery?

How well do the products satisfy customer needs? How well does a given system add value to or enable a business process?

Process Measurements How many hours were devoted to which projects in the past 12 months? How many of those were direct, indirect, and managerial? What funds were expended where and when? How much time was spent adding value to the application? What were the cycle times? When was testing performed and how effective was it? What kind of work was being performed?

The following four categories have been suggested for maintenance work: corrective (i.e., fixing mistakes), adaptive (i.e., keeping up with external regulations and changes in technology), perfective (i.e., changing user requirements or performance), and preventive (i.e., enhancing maintainability and reliability).

Organizational Performance How well does the IS organization compare with industry standards such as the Software Engineering Institute maturity model? How does the IS organization satisfy its customers? How well is IS delivering value and responding to needs?

Once a system of metrics is in place, managing users, legacy systems, and IS people becomes more straightforward. Without metrics, management remains a matter of educated guesswork. Some of America's most admired corporations — such as Motorola and Hewlett Packard — have recognized the urgency of the issue and are driving metrics throughout their organizations.

Project Management Made Easy

Project Management Made Easy

What you need to know about… Project Management Made Easy! Project management consists of more than just a large building project and can encompass small projects as well. No matter what the size of your project, you need to have some sort of project management. How you manage your project has everything to do with its outcome.

Get My Free Ebook

Post a comment