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    12 Key Software Development Metrics & KPIs for Measuring Productivity

    The effectiveness of your software development team is critical for any product development and business growth. Thus, it is vital to use the right software development metrics and measurements to estimate the results of the dev team and figure out ways to improve the work process. However, many companies often back off when measuring software productivity.

    Why? Some do not see the need for software productivity measurement because they "believe" that theirs is top-notch. Others would wish to measure their productivity in software engineering, but they barely know how.

    Mature businesses recognize the necessity to measure productivity in software development and consider it a matter of obligation. However, there is more to measuring software development and productivity than routines.

    Let’s look at software development metrics companies use most frequently and find out why and how to use them.

    Why Use Software Development Metrics and Measurements?

    It is a popular saying that when the use of a thing is unknown, its abuse is inevitable. So for starters, we will examine why measuring software productivity is crucial.

    Generally, software productivity measurement is used by IT companies or companies that have or are going to hire a dev team where software plays a pivotal part in their productivity. Typically, every company sets development goals at a time. Tucked somewhere within these goals is the hope that maximum productivity or improved quality of products will be achieved with the least time and cost value.

    Software developing companies seek to improve their software development process with less input and more output. You must consciously and effectively track the progress to reach this aim. Here is exactly where tracking software metrics and KPIs come in.

    The reasons why software development metrics and KPIs are monitored and analyzed are:

    • Knowing what the quality of the software product at hand is;
    • Using them as a good medium to ensure that you have hit the nail on the head;
    • Applying them for diagnostics, as they are perfect tools for detecting hindrances to software productivity and development;
    • Achieving communication goals and targets. These metrics can break productivity goals into simple, feasible, and accurate action plans. With metrics, the team gets to work on the same page, at the same pace, and running with the same vision;
    • Getting an opportunity to weigh your decisions before making them and knowing how to prioritize each software process.

    With it, we can differentiate routine things in the software process from the most important ones. Our team creates a scale of preference and determines the urgent but unimportant apart from the important but not urgent. Still, on to-do lists, engineer productivity metrics highlight the very things to prevent so that it does not cost you more in the future when trying to fix them.

    The right software development metrics should act as a loadstar to practically guide your business from its location to your preferred destination. This means with KPI; we can chronicle the growth phases and stages of our business. With metrics, we can always reproduce our results since we do not stumble upon such achievement by guesswork or gut feeling but by deliberate steps that software productivity measurement helps the software development team work better.

    Failing to invest in compiling accurate business data beyond the usual financial statements and reports means business owners will continue to rely on “gut feelings” and assumptions when making decisions.

    What Are Software Development Productivity and Quality Measurement?

    Let's define software measurement and productivity to ensure we are on the same page. In basic parlance, software development productivity is defined as the proportion of the functional value of the software product to the efforts and cost of producing it.

    This explanation allows the customer's benefit from that software to influence the measurement of such software productivity. This method of measuring productivity in software development is based on the value of results to the software consumer, which is more realistic than basing results on lines of code. Productivity metrics in software engineering have been defined by different scholars in their works on software.

    However, a simplified combination of their perspectives on software development eventually comes to this. Software development measurement is not confined to one stage or aspect of software development, but it runs through the entire cycle and engages all aspects of software development. In fact, it is almost the lifeblood of software development processes.

    Considering the rich eulogy of software development, you might be curious about what metrics are to measure, how to go about such measurements, and how these calculations affect your business.

    What to Measure with Software Development Productivity and Quality Metrics?

    It is fundamental to understand that suitable units exist for every kind of measurement. The case of software development is not any different, so for measuring software measurement, productivity metrics are involved. Though metrics is a term that appears in almost every business that indulges in the rather helpful habit of evaluation, software metrics, in particular, involve software productivity that guides all the project management process.

    In this journey, metrics serve as the tour guide that determines if you're on the right path toward your software development goal and recommends what methods and means suit software development.

    Various software performance metrics are the subjects of studies and research by different scholars like Baumert and McWhinney, 1992; Hammer et al., 1998; Loconsole, 2001; Paulk et al., 1993.

    Many researchers offered several classifications of metrics. Still, they all seem to agree on a couple of things. Software engineering metrics are categorized differently, but some may fall under multiple categories.

    Methods of Measuring & Types of Software Development Metrics

    Now that you know what software productivity and measurement are, particularly software product development metrics, let’s move on.

    Software quality metrics can improve software quality and help better understand how reliable, safe, and secure software is. ExpertTali knows how metrics fit software productivity and the process of its measuring since we’ve got many successful projects in our portfolio.

    Particular metrics allow for analyzing software productivity and effectiveness at various stages of its development. Let’s consider the trendiest metrics for measuring software quality and efficiency.

    Performance Metrics

    Software developer performance metrics are figures and data about a company's actions, abilities, and product quality. They are various and can provide insights on sales, profits, returns on investment, order execution speed, productivity, customer satisfaction, overall quality, and a company’s reputation. These key figures are only useful if acknowledged, calculated, and tracked.

    Quality Metrics

    Quality metrics typically include customer satisfaction, supplier performance, software defects, cycle times, and other internal or external features. These metrics provide a framework for establishing the right quality indicators for evaluating the software product. Get this valuable information from the interested parties’ feedback and the customer support team.

    Forecast Metrics

    Forecasting is an important part of any planning activity. Forecast (capacity) metrics help predict the number of hours needed for different stages of work and foresee negative factors that may significantly impact the software product. They are essential for root cause analysis and detecting systematic changes in forecast accuracy as early as possible.

    Business Value Metrics

    These metrics are individual indicators for every software solution. They help guide and gauge the value of the company’s product in the market. Business measurements must be carefully managed to ensure they give the right and objective answers to the relevant questions.

    Project Timeline Metric

    Managers can see how to work focus and volume change over time using the Project Timeline metric. When it comes to a software project, cost and time are directly proportional. Too much time increases the project cost and results in a billing loss.

    Thus, the Project Timeline metric is crucial to deliver the projects on time or before the deadline without exceeding the budget. Also, this metric helps visualize how different events impact the developers’ team performance and work out data-driven decisions accordingly.

    Code Review Metric

    For developers, the practice of reviewing codes prevents the efforts and hours spent in processing the errors. Also, it reduces costs. Code reviews help detect project-specific tags pointing to new features, bug fixes, or other improvements. Code metrics enable us to determine how much time each developer spends on code review, how many defects were detected, and the percentage of reviewed codes by a developer. This data promotes accountability and statistics.

    Agile Metrics

    The Agile process metrics are based on prioritization, allowing developers to focus on a certain result and business goals. The working group should concentrate on the task assigned without being distracted by secondary requirements and requests. Breaking down a project into small tasks makes identifying the most important ones easier.

    When developing software, track both business indicators and Agile metrics. Business indicators help understand how the given product meets the market needs. Agile metrics evaluate different aspects of the software development process. Agile process metrics are also needed to reduce the time it takes to turn an idea into a software product and to complete an order from start to finish.

    Security Response Metric

    Security response metrics facilitate decision-making and improve performance and accountability by collecting, analyzing, and reporting performance-related data. Tracking a metric of security responses helps ensure the effectiveness of a project.

    To measure the effectiveness of cybersecurity processes, managers must consider the availability of data for analysis, the security of operational procedures, the automation of data collection, and the complexity of this process.

    This metric is used to achieve the goals of information security, efficiency, cost-effectiveness, and the impact of cybersecurity on business processes. As a rule, a quantitative indicator is used for its evaluation. It is expressed as a percentage of the number of performed actions to the number of implemented measures. The risk of security responses is expressed as a function of threats, vulnerabilities, and potential impacts (or expected losses):

    Size-Oriented Metrics

    Size-oriented metrics are created to measure the software product and its development process. These metrics are based on estimates related to LOC (Lines of Code), representing the number of lines in the software product.

    The advantages of size-oriented software performance metrics are that they are widely used, simple, and easy to calculate. What about the disadvantages? They depend on the programming language and require initial data that can be difficult to obtain at the initial stage of the project.

    Size-oriented metrics of performance and quality are calculated using the following formulas:

    Function-Oriented Metrics

    These types of software metrics are crucial to measuring software development. Function-oriented metrics indirectly measure a software product and its development process. Instead of calculating the LOC score, these metrics do not consider the software product's size but the functionality and usefulness. These metrics validate user input, issue error reports, reflect user queries, etc. The following five information characteristics are used:

    • Number of external inputs;
    • Number of external pins;
    • Number of external requests;
    • Number of internal logical files;
    • Number of external interface files.

    Mean Time Between Failures (MTBF)

    Understanding how outages and technical incidents happen is essential, as errors and failures lead to real consequences such as missed deadlines, payment delays, etc. The Mean Time Between Failures (MTBF) measures how long a component can be calculated during the last time between downtimes.

    This metric is intended to help teams of developers understand how often incidents occur and how quickly the team resolves them. The MTBF metric tracks both the availability and reliability of a software product. It is also used for redundancy planning and customer services.

    Mean Time to Recover (MTTR)

    The Mean Time to Recovery (MTTR) shows the average time it takes to recover a component after a failure. If the MTTR value of any critical component in a high availability installation exceeds RTO (Recovery Time Objective), a system failure could result in unacceptable business disruption. It means that you cannot restore the system within a certain RTO value.

    MTTR includes four indicators: repair, response, resolution, and recovery. Although these four features overlap, each has its meaning and characteristics.

    Currently, many experts are arguing about the real benefits of MTBF and MTTR metrics. On the one hand, when these metrics are used separately from other indicators, these operational metrics do not answer the tough questions of how incidents are handled, what works and what does not, and how, when, and why problems escalate or subside.

    On the other hand, MTBF and MTTR can be good baselines and benchmarks for discussing deeper and more important issues.

    Usability and UX Metrics

    Usability metrics directly correlate with customer experience. From a formal point of view, usability is the degree to which certain users can use a product to achieve their goals with due efficiency, productivity, and satisfaction. Usability metrics show how the software product is user-friendly, understandable, and easy to learn for users, i.e., the emphasis is on functionality and simplicity. Therefore, for any usability assessment, the following user parameters should be considered:

    • Discoverability;
    • Efficiency;
    • Accessibility;
    • Memorability;
    • Learnability;
    • Satisfaction.

    UX metrics are data sets that measure, compare and track the user experience over time. These indicators are vitally important for making UX design decisions using evidence rather than user opinions. That is why UX metrics are qualitative.

    They often include users' emotional responses, such as how much they trust the given software. Such metrics can be considered a bridge between design, product, and business. To measure UX, some attitudinal features are to be evaluated:

    • Loyalty;
    • Usability;
    • Credibility.

    Customer Satisfaction in Software Development Services

    This metric shows how customers evaluate the software product's performance, quality, and usability. Typically, the customer satisfaction metric is based on customer reviews conducted using such tools as Net Promoter Score (NPS), Customer Effort Score (CES), and Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT).

    These features allow you to determine how customers and vendors get the right software and how happy they are while using it. This metric aims to help project managers improve the processes that underpin software development.

    KPIs in Software Development

    KPIs for developers are one of the favorite topics in software development companies. Managers are accustomed to seeing specific results in numbers, such as the number of orders performed per month, the profit amount per year, and so on.

    Such indicators are easy to measure. However, when compiling KPIs for developers, we must consider that engineers are smart, creative, and, most importantly, passionate specialists. Software experts usually prefer to work out of frameworks and boundaries.


    Thus, introducing perfect software development KPIs is not an easy task.

    Today, many companies use key software development KPIs directly related to increasing the number of users or customers in less time. For this, automated systems and KPIs for software quality are used to constantly monitor whether the company is on the right track or not. If developer productivity metrics are insufficient, you need to change how the team works, try new technologies, and so on.

    Such indicators as a number of defects or lines of code are rarely used since they do not increase sales and are hard to apply for the entire organization.

    ExpertTal can help you build a remote, dedicated software development team capable of delivering high performance to scale your productivity. Feel free to get in touch with us.

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    About the Author

    Kamal Rastogi is a serial IT entrepreneur with 25 yrs plus experience. Currently his focus area is Data Science business, ERP Consulting, IT Staffing and Experttal.com (Fastest growing US based platform to hire verified / Risk Compliant Expert IT resources from talent rich countries like India, Romania, Philippines etc...directly). His firms service clients like KPMG, Deloitte, EnY, Samsung, Wipro, NCR Corporation etc in India and USA.

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