Software Engineering-Project Metrics

Software process metrics are used for strategic purposes. Software project measures are tactical. That is, project metrics and the indicators derived from them are used by a project manager and a software team to adapt project work flow and technical activities.

The first application of project metrics on most software projects occurs during estimation. Metrics collected from past projects are used as a basis from which effort and time estimates are made for current software work. As a project proceeds, measures of effort and calendar time expended are compared to original estimates (and the project schedule). The project manager uses these data to monitor and control progress.

As technical work commences, other project metrics begin to have significance. Production rates represented in terms of pages of documentation, review hours, function points, and delivered source lines are measured. In addition, errors uncovered during each software engineering task are tracked. As the software evolves from specification into design, technical metrics  are collected to assess design quality and to provide indicators that will influence the approach taken to code generation and testing.

The intent of project metrics is twofold. First, these metrics are used to minimize the development schedule by making the adjustments necessary to avoid delays and mitigate potential problems and risks. Second, project metrics are used to assess product quality on an ongoing basis and, when necessary, modify the technical approach to improve quality. As quality improves, defects are minimized, and as the defect count goes down, the amount of rework required during the project is also reduced. This leads to a reduction in overall project cost.

Another model of software project metrics suggests that every project should measure:

• Inputs—measures of the resources (e.g., people, environment) required to do the work.
• Outputs—measures of the deliverables or work products created during the software engineering process.
• Results—measures that indicate the effectiveness of the deliverables.

In actuality, this model can be applied to both process and project. In the project context, the model can be applied recursively as each framework activity occurs. Therefore the output from one activity becomes input to the next. Results metrics can be used to provide an indication of the usefulness of work products as they flow from one framework activity (or task) to the next.
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