Software Engineering at Google Chapter #7 - Measuring Engineering Productivity (2 of 3)

  • Reasons NOT to measure things:
    • The results will be invalidated by other factors
    • Example: Measuring software development speed before a major re-org
    • Know your audience. Some people have ideas or biases based on past experience and no amount of persuasion will change their mind. Some prefer qualitative, some prefer quantitative
    • The only available metrics are not precise enough to measure the problem and may be confounded by additional factors
    • Don’t settle for a less precise metric or proxy metric
    • Either way, it’s not a good approach as it’s lack of precision may incorrectly confirm beliefs
    • Don’t use the results as vanity metrics or as confirmation of an action you planned to take regardless
    • In these cases, the definition of success is getting the stakeholder the data they need in order to help make the best decision
  • LOC is a terrible metric because it encourages “insipid code”. See them as “lines spent” vs “lines written”
  • To create a metric use the GSM framework as follows:
    • Goal - End result phrases in terms of what you want to understand at a high level. Should not contain specifics.
    • Signal - How you know you have achieved the end result. Unmeasurable.
    • Metric - The thing we can actually measure, the proxy for the signal
    • Each goal should have 1 or more signals associated with it
    • Each signal may have multiple metrics associated with it
    • GSM forces users to think about which metrics help us reach our goals vs which metrics are available. There are more options. Always.
    • When using GSM you must maintain traceability so you can follow the metric back to the signal
  • The streetlight effect: You have lost your keys and are only looking for them under the streetlight because that’s the only illuminated area. You can look elsewhere, too.
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