SOFTWARE ENGINEERING blog & .lessons_learned
manuel aldana
Manuel Aldana

November 14th, 2010 · No Comments

Top 4 Software-Metrics Antipatterns

Metrics are a way to quantify a specific view of a system. They occur in several areas like in source-code (e.g. LOC), process (e.g. number of production issues) or business (e.g. website page-views). Followings lists my “most-favorite” Metrics Antipatterns.

1. Wrong target audience

Metrics don’t act as a feedback cycle for the people who produced the results, but merely end up in top-management number crunching reports. These bottom-up-only metrics don’t add value because they don’t improve the work of the people who “produce” the results. Also unrelated metrics are presented, why should top management be interested in test-coverage? Test-coverage is important, but the related metric “number of regression bugs” would be much more helpful for management audience.

2. No Transparency/Agreement

Team doesn’t understand or hasn’t agreed on metrics setup. The team is controlled by numbers instead that they use them as guidance and feedback loop. Regarding this remember that software developers are specialists in workarounds! In most cases metrics can be bypassed, the number itself looks good but the truth is different, e.g. I can easily increase code-coverage by adding useless unit-tests only executing code without doing any asserts.

3. Holy numbers

All metrics are taken for granted and high and low peaks aren’t questioned. Everyone is panicking because the metrics look so bad. But they were never evaluated as being realistic and never plausible tested. It is not that seldom that numbers were plain wrong and caused not only number but also unnecessary adrenaline peaks…

4. Bad format/Data floods

The metrics aren’t presented well. Even if you have potentially interesting data the insights/implications are just flooded away. For instance instead of using signal-light colours or concentrating on the most-important metrics you are getting overwhelmed by the millions of bare numbers. In the end (as we are humans) everyone will ignore such reports.


Above points seem to be common sense, still in practice metrics are misused a lot. Some observations even lead to the conclusion, that this is done on purpose to fake good results or to give a wrong feeling of control. This bad reputation is a shame because many metrics implemented correctly are an objective, cost-effective and powerful part of your feedback-loop. They also can be highly motivating because you have a target of improvement (e.g. less code-structure warnings, lowering production bugs, increase test-coverage).

Tags: Software Engineering

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