Establishing and monitoring SDLC metrics is a powerful way to drive behavior change in your organization. But metrics are highly prone to creating unexpected outcomes and must be used with great care. Use metrics judiciously to avoid gaming or ambivalent behavior, productivity loss, and unintended consequences.
There is no shortage of people who expound the virtues of establishing and tracking software development life cycle (SDLC) metrics. Some consider them mandatory for effectively managing development teams to achieve desirable outcomes. But as Atlassian (the maker of Jira) has said, “many of us have had the misfortune of being on a project where stats were used as a weapon, pitting one team against another or justifying mandatory weekend work. So it's no surprise that most teams have a love/hate relationship with metrics.”
The truth is that badly chosen or incorrectly managed metrics are worse than no metrics at all and will almost certainly result in undesirable outcomes, up to and including outcomes that are polar opposites of what you intended.
Here’s what badly chosen metrics can lead to:
How you manage your metrics can be just as detrimental to desired outcomes as how you choose them. It is possible (and some would even say easy) to manage metrics in a misguided or even toxic fashion. Here are some of the ways metrics can be mismanaged:
We consider using metrics to be analogous to wielding a very sharp knife. Both are extremely powerful and effective tools when used by a skilled practitioner for an appropriate task. But both are also highly dangerous when applied to the wrong task or used in an irresponsible fashion. You should proceed with due caution when working with either of them.
Here are some of the ways you can judiciously apply SDLC metrics to maximize desirable outcomes and minimize mishaps:
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