Carol Dekkers's blog

Carol Dekkers's blog

Fundamentals of Software Metrics in Two Minutes or Less

A couple of years ago at a lean software and systems conference, I delivered a “lightning talk” about software metrics. In the two-minute time span, I illustrated the folly of gathering data without a measurement plan and the audience grasped the concept immediately.  “Why don’t more companies get this?” remarked several attendees, “it just doesn’t make sense to collect all the data we do without a plan.”

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to succeed with software measurement; professionals with a straightforward plan can quickly and easily reap its benefits. Two concepts are fundamental to embrace for metrics success:  1. Goal-Question-Metric (GQM), and 2. Simplicity.  

Goal-Question-Metric (GQM) Approach to Metrics

First introduced by Victor Basili as an approach to measurement, and later the subject of a book by the same name by Rini vanSoligen and Egon Berghout, GQM is a straight-forward, stepwise approach to measurement.  While it has applicability to measurement in any industry, Basili created GQM specifically to address the chaos in the software world.  GQM involves three steps:

  1. Establish the Goals for measurement.
  2. Ask the Questions that will answer whether the goals are being met.
  3. Design and collect the Metrics to answer the questions.

The Software Engineering Institute (SEI) at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, PA expanded Victor Basili’s GQM approach to GQIM, the “I” being indicator, but that is the topic of a future post.

Blog Post Categories 
Metrics Database

Ask Carol: If IT's Important, Get a Second Opinion

QSM is hosting a new free advice column for software professionals who seek help to solve project management, communication and general software project issues. The first few scenarios are based on questions we receive all the time. Carol Dekkers is a QSM consultant and IT measurement and project management expert who speaks internationally on topics related to software development. Send your questions to Ask Carol!

Dear Carol:

I am a seasoned software project manager who continually gets blamed when my projects come in late and over-budget.  I’ve worked the last 8 weekends with my team to deliver software for my customer and no matter what we do, we can’t seem to catch up or curtail the spending. Now my team is even turning on me saying I should have known that management would get angry, when they were the ones who imposed unrealistic deadlines and keep changing their minds about what functions they want delivered first.  We’re all ready to throw in the towel, but we love our jobs and are doing the best we can.  Help!

– Overworked and Frustrated in IT land

Dear Overworked:

The first thing I can tell you is that you are not alone!  I know that this might not make you feel better, but even the best and highest paid project managers face the same issues on a day-to-day basis.  The best piece of advice I can give you is “if it’s important (as IT projects are!) – always get a second opinion.”  This is what we do in life – if you go to a doctor and he tells you that you need knee surgery, you always get a second opinion.  We need to apply the same life lessons to our work life!  

Blog Post Categories 
Tips & Tricks Ask Carol

What Can Goldilocks Teach about Software Estimating?

You may not be aware that in 1837 when Robert Southey published his popular retelling of the Three Bears story, the U.S. experienced the “Panic of 1837,” a financial crisis that touched off a decade long recession featuring unemployment, pessimism, lowered profits/prices/wages, and blamed on domestic and foreign origins. While we might consider 1837 a simpler time - it was without modern conveniences like indoor plumbing, the internet, and supersonic travel – some aspects of human behavior and communication aren’t that much different today. I thought about this when I was keynoting the 20th anniversary EuroSPI2 conference (software process improvement) in Ireland, the same week that I read the following in the British press

“The Department for Work and Pensions has dropped a coalition government scheme to avert software disasters from its £2bn Universal Credit programme” forecasting the cancelation of the largest ever agile software development project – a project now four plus years behind schedule with potentially billions of taxpayer funds at risk.  

Blog Post Categories