Software Metrics

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The software engineering community has been placing a great deal of
emphasis lately on metrics and their use in software development. The
following metrics are probably among the most valuable for a software

The Pizza Metric

How: Count the number of pizza boxes in the lab.
What: Measures the amount of schedule under-estimation. If people are
spending enough after-hours time working on the project that they need
to have meals delivered to the office, then there has obviously been a
mis-estimation somewhere.

The Aspirin Metric

How: Maintain a centrally-located aspirin bottle for use by the team.
At the beginning and end of each month, count the number of aspirin
remaining aspirin in the bottle. What: Measures stress suffered by the
team during the project. This most likely indicates poor project
design in the early phases, which causes over-expenditure of effort
later on. In the early phases, high aspirin-usage probably indicates
that the product's goals or other parameters were poorly defined.

The Beer Metric

How: Invite the team to a beer bash each Friday. Record the total bar
bill. What: Closely related to the Aspirin Metric, the Beer Metric
measures the frustration level of the team. Among other things, this
may indicate that the technical challenge is more difficult than

The Creeping Feature Metric

How: Count the number of features added to the project after the
design has been signed off, but that were not requested by any
requirements definition. What: This measures schedule slack. If the
team has time to add features that are not necessary, then there was
too much time allocated to a schedule task.

The "Duck!" Metric

How: This one is tricky, but a likely metric would be to count the
number of engineers that leave the room when a marketing person
enters. This is only valid after a requirements document has been
finalized. What: Measures the completeness of the initial
requirements. If too many requirements changes are made after the
product has been designed, then the engineering team will be wary of
marketing, for fear of receiving yet another change to a design which
met all initial specifications.

The Status Report Metric

How: Count the total number of words dedicated to the project in each
engineer's status report.

What: This is a simple way to estimate the smoothness with which the
project is running. If things are going well, an item will likely
read, "I talked to Fred; the widgets are on schedule." If things are
not going as well, it will say, "I finally got in touch with Fred
after talking to his phone mail for nine days straight. It appears
that the widgets will be delayed due to snow in the Ozarks, which will
cause the whoozits schedule to be put on hold until widgets arrive. If
the whoozits schedule slips by three weeks, then the entire project is
in danger of missing the July deadline."

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