For any project to be successful in the long run, it’s essential to have key performance indicators (KPI’s) identified and measured on a regular basis. Software development projects are no exception.
When it comes to software development, there are a lot of moving pieces and methodologies to consider. Here’s why KPI’s can make a significant difference in the level of success achieved, and which ones should be used in the software development process.
Why Use KPI’s in Software Development?
KPI’s act as a set of success metrics for organizational efforts and provide the framework by which to set action goals to yield quantitative results. In other words, it provides an easy, numerical way to ensure a project is moving forward.
KPI’s can be used both during the development process and post-launch to identify key issues of concern and evaluate the overall success of a piece of software. They act as a way to answer any questions that arise surrounding the success of the project and how it plays into the business objectives. According to the experts at AppOptics, KPI’s are essential for using application monitoring software effectively. Below are some of the KPI’s that should be included in software development efforts.
One KPI that will set a standard throughout the organization is development time, or the time it takes to get from ideation to launch. This metric looks at the project management process as a whole and provides insights about how to improve the customer experience when hired to develop a piece of software.
Having this metric allows businesses to set a goal pertaining to development efficiency, then make a plan to reduce this time. Compressing the development timeline often occurs by streamlining SOPs to improve communication and simplifying the decision-making process.
Under the umbrella of development time, you can also measure cycle time as a KPI. Cycle time falls within the Agile framework and acts as a metric of how quickly a change can be made to a software system. Depending on the process used, the cycle time can be as little as a few minutes or even seconds.
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Measuring team velocity evaluates how much work a team accomplishes during a set time period. Like development time, it looks for holes in the development process. It’s important to remember that team velocity should be measured within a set team at given intervals, rather than comparing one team to another. Comparing teams on one metric leaves out too many factors about their road to success.
When evaluating team velocity, the best approach is by using set Agile sprints, which is a set time during which specific output goals are expected to be met. Sometimes it takes a few sprints for a team to get into a rhythm; this should be considered when using team velocity as a KPI.
MTBF and MTTR
Mean Time Between Failures (MTBF) is the software developer’s version of an “it has been X days since our last incident” sign. The MTBF measures how frequently or, ideally, infrequently errors are occurring within the software. Mean Time to Repair (MTTR) identifies how long it takes to correct an issue when it arises, from reporting time to implementation.
When looking at MTBF and MTTR, the lower the numbers, the better. That being said, expecting there to be no problems whatsoever is unrealistic in the software development world. Both MTBF and MTTR can be scaled to look at a project in its entirety or to zoom in on the minutiae of individual features.
In addition to MTBF and MTTR, the crash rate should be evaluated as a post-launch metric by calculating how many times the application failed divided by how many times the application was used.
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There are endless metrics that could be collected and put together in a way that gives an overall snapshot of what’s happening in a software development project. Peer code reviews could be integrated into the development process for a more qualitative approach, and KPI’s from a business performance side (such as cost implications) could be looked at as well.
The ultimate indicator of performance is success as defined at the beginning of the project. That’s why each development project should start with a conversation that outlines the goals of the project and how it ties into the business’s overall definition of success.