Q

Agile development teams should decide which metrics are most useful

Deciding which metrics are important is often a management decision. In this expert response, agile expert Lisa Crispin recommends letting the team decide which metrics will best keep them on track for delivering a high-quality application, giving examples of metrics used on high-performing teams.

I enjoyed your recent expert response about test metrics for Agile teams. But what do you think are the standard metrics as a manager that I need to follow?

An Agile team should think about what metrics will help them stay on track and meet their goals. As a manager, I would let the team decide which metrics are the most useful.

For example, my team set a goal for ourselves to have no more than six high-severity bugs in production in the next six months. We could track this information in our defect tracking system. We set a goal to improve our code coverage by 3% over six months, and used a code-coverage tool to keep us informed.

We find it more valuable to look at trends than hard numbers. If the number of unit tests is going up over time, our management can feel confident we are supporting our coding with test. It can be expensive to gather and report metrics. And they can be demoralizing if managers use them to punish people. However, visible feedback can be motivating and help reinforce improvement. Let the team evaluate whether they get the right feedback and experiment with different metrics to find the most useful ones for their situation.

For more information on quality metrics, see Quality metrics: A guide to measuring software quality.

This was first published in December 2010

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