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This write-up is a deep dive into the world of software metrics.
I will talk about how metrics are useful to building software and try to answer all of our in general questions on them such as What are software metrics in software engineering?
How important are they in building successful software products & in the industry as a whole? How widely are they used in the industry? & so on.

So, without any further ado, let’s get on with it.


1. What is A Software Metric?

In really simple words a software metric is a parameter based on which a software system is monitored, evaluated in terms of performance & other multiple factors. Also, a process is tracked or estimated.

Now when I say estimation it’s more in the context of the processes involved in building software. Like estimating resources, time etc. during the planning phase of any project.

Speaking of software systems, be it for an e-commerce system selling stuff online or a simple tool running in production collecting garbage, metrics are important & we just can’t do without them.

Remember that green line in those digital heartbeat monitors we see in movies? That is a metric too.

Some of us often confuse the term measurement with metric. Do they have any differences or can be used synonymously? Let’s find out?

2. Difference between Measurement & Metric

Measurement & metric, kind of sound like the same thing. But they are fundamentally different.

I’ll explain. Measurements kind of tell us about the size, quantity or a particular attribute about a certain product. Whereas metric is custom data derived from measurements.

Let’s understand this with the help of an example.

The number of bugs in a particular software module would be a measurement whereas the number of bugs per sprint or developer hours would be a metric.

Metric is always derived from measurements. They are combinations of data, often stacked up against each other on a graph to provide a better understanding of stuff.


3. My Industry Experience, Monitoring Software Production Systems, With Metrics

I’ve had some really cool experiences in the past, monitoring whale size production systems, with the help of metrics, making sure that systems work smooth & as expected.

Not a long while ago, I worked as a programmer on the production system of one of the world’s biggest e-commerce portals. And we had these massive wall-sized LCDs, in our development centres, full of graphs & metrics & stuff, running round the clock monitoring different flows of the massive system.

One instance of it would be keeping tabs on the graph displaying metrics of the order placement flow.

During the festive seasons, typically there would be immense traffic surge on the site & we had to make sure the order placement metrics were as expected.

Why did we really need that?

Often there were bot attacks on the platform by miscreants which placed several automated orders consuming the platform computing resources.

A monitoring metric would immediately indicate the traffic surge in case of this kind of activity & it helped us take immediate action.

Also, monitoring the flow helped us figure out the conversion rate, that means the ratio of orders being added to cart to those being checked out.

Metrics helped us, understand the user behaviour, keep tabs on how well the servers handled the traffic surge, also detect anomalies in the system.

So, now we have an idea of how important the metrics are in software engineering.

Ohk, moving on.


4. Types of Software Metrics

There are several kinds of metrics such as process, product & project metrics.

The metric I spoke of in the above section was a product metric.

There are process measurements done through process metrics, product measurements through the product metrics & project measurement through the project metrics.

As already stated, metrics are our friend right from the idea phase to estimation, planning, right till the cloud-ready solution running in production.

They are used in several different perspectives & contexts & help in timely completion of our tasks & goals.

Software metrics help us couple our business goals with the software development process & help in deciding on what features should be included in the MVP (Minimum Viable Product). Based on time, resources, what features should be focussed on & what should be left out for future iterations.


4.1 What is Process Metrics In Software Engineering?

Process metrics help us plan our software development process well. It’ helps us keep tabs on & meet our goals in a timely fashion.

Now that you’re reading this article on metrics. I am taking the liberty to assume that you have atleast some degree of familiarity with the software development process.

And when speaking of the development process. Agile needs no introduction.

Let’s try to understand process metrics with the help of Agile software development methodology.

Right at the outset of the planning phase in Agile, while building an application. There are several useful metrics such as:

Lead time – The time it will take from idea to an app running in production.
Cycle time – How long will it take to make a change in the software & deliver it to production.
Team velocity – How many tasks/stories is a team being able to complete in a sprint.
Open close rates – How many production issues are closed within a stipulated time.

The above agile terminologies give a clear idea of how process metrics are useful in the software development planning process.


4.2 What is Product Metrics in Software Engineering?

Product metrics means metrics used to asses our software systems & maintain their quality.

I’ve already talked about it, above in the write-up. Remember the live production environment of the e-commerce company I worked for? We can also call this quality metrics.


4.2.1 Tools Available in the Industry For Running Production Metrics

There are several effective tools in the market equipped with standard & customizable features to help software teams deploy monitoring solutions in production. Without the need for writing everything from the ground up. Some of them are Graphana, DataDog, ELK stack etc.

All these tools work like a charm in running analytics & monitoring on production systems.

The product metrics help us figure out the Application crash rate – How many times a certain module, flow or a feature is failing within a stipulated time.

The uptime & the downtime of individual servers & their cluster. Server consumption, memory consumption, resource hungry processes & threads & much more.

There are also several source code metrics which help us maintain the code quality.

For an instance metrics indicating the ideal number of lines of code in a class or within a method. Helping us enforce a standard coding style, picking out anti-patterns and stuff.

I remember using PMP for running static code analysis on my code.

Software metrics help us a big deal in evolving & fine-tuning the product throughout the iterative development phase. Maintaining the quality of the product, establishing benchmarks. Comparing & analyzing things with previous metrics. Regression performance analysis after a new deployment.


4.3 What is Project Metrics in Software Engineering?

Project Metrics are typically required by folks dedicatedly involved in the project planning like the product owners, team leads, managers, people up the hierarchy.

With the help of the project metrics, they keep a check on resource exhaustion rate such as money vs the real work done.

Project metrics helps us gauge team productivity, individual programmer productivity. It helps us analyze development trends over time. What works, what doesn’t.

Numbers don’t always mean everything. It’s the end results & the success which matters most. It lies in our skills & abilities to make an efficient use of metrics to smash our goals in minimum time.


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Well, this was pretty much it on software metrics. I would love to know your views on this. Anything which is left out & should be included etc.

If you enjoyed the article, do share it with your geek friends.

See you in the next article.
Until then…