AgileandBeyond was full of great sessions but my favorite session of the day had to be my fellow Buckeye Todd Kaufman’s Metrics that Matter follow on Twitter @toddkaufman. Todd started the session by asking how many of us in attendance were developers and much to my surprise about 75% of the room raised their hands. He then asked how many of us were involved in the business operations and only about 30% of the hands in the room went up. Just for the record I raised my hand on both occasions. Upon seeing the results he noted that this is part of the issue with developing relevant metrics, developers tend to see themselves as outside of the business process even though they are part of the business process.
The problem with metrics is that there is not one “golden formula” to determine if anything is successful in development. What a developer may consider a reliable and relevant metric may appear to be completely useless to a CFO. One of the more interesting things about this session was that he managed to silence about 100 developers by asking a fill in the blank question: Metrics are ________ to a software development team? There were plenty of responses to this question but when he asked how our boss, product owner, or client answers that same question you could have heard a pin drop in that room. Far too often we as developers alienate ourselves from the business side of things and in doing so lose touch with what is expected of the projects we are working on.
By far the most popular slide of the session was an interesting new word. Todd created and defined a word for what many developers and managers consider a common problem in business.
sadometricism – The gratification of oneself through metrics to the point of pain for the individual and those around them.
Many of us in attendance found this hysterical but the reality is that this is a common issue in today’s organizations. There is an inherit need to quantify value in everything that is being done by a business but as in Extreme Programming have pointed out “Nearly every metric can be perverted, since up- and down-ticks in the metric can come from good or bad causes. Teams driven by metrics often game the metrics rather than deliver useful software. Ask the team to deliver and measure Running Tested Features, week in and week out, over the course of the entire project. Keeping this single metric looking good demands that a team become both agile and productive.”