15 Key Software Development Metrics & KPIs for Measuring Engineering Productivity

15 Key Software Development Metrics & KPIs for Measuring Engineering Productivity

28 April 2023 • 24 min read

The effectiveness of your software development teamwork is a critical point for any product development and business growth. Thus, it is vital to use the right software development metrics and measurements to estimate the results of the dev team and figure out ways to improve the work process. However, often when measuring software productivity comes up, many companies back off.

Why? Some do not see the need for software productivity measurement because they "believe" that theirs is top-notch. Others would wish to measure their productivity in software engineering, but they barely know how.

Mature businesses recognize the necessity to measure productivity in software development and consider it a matter of obligation. However, there is more to measuring software development and productivity than routines.

Let’s look at software development metrics that companies use most frequently and find out why and how to use them. Also, as an experienced provider of software development services, we’ll share our Radiant, Soundit, and Streamotion case studies.

Why Use Software Development Metrics and Measurements

It is a popular saying that when the use of a thing is unknown, its abuse is inevitable. So for starters, we will look at why measuring software developer productivity is crucial.

Generally, software productivity measurement is used by IT companies or companies that have or are going to hire a dev team where software plays a pivotal part in their productivity. Typically, every company sets development goals per time. Tucked somewhere within these goals is the hope that maximum productivity or improved quality of products will be achieved with the least time and cost value.

Software developing companies are seeking to make their software development process better, with less input and more output. To reach this aim, you have to consciously and effectively track the progress. Here is exactly where tracking software metrics and KPIs come in.

The reasons why software development metrics and KPIs are monitored and analyzed are:

  • Knowing what the quality of the software product at hand is;
  • Using them as a good medium to ensure that you have hit the nail on the head;
  • Applying them for diagnostics, as they are perfect tools for detecting hindrances to software productivity and development;
  • Achieving communication goals and targets. These metrics can break productivity goals into simple, feasible, and accurate action plans. With metrics, the team gets to work on the same page, at the same pace, and running with the same vision;
  • Getting an opportunity to weigh your decisions before making them and knowing how to prioritize each software process.

For instance, software development measurement helps the Softermii team work smart.

With it, we can differentiate routine things in the software process from the most important ones. Our team not only creates a scale of preference but also determines the urgent but unimportant apart from the important but not urgent. Still, on to-do lists, software engineering productivity metrics highlight the very things to prevent so that it does not cost you more in the future when trying to fix them.

The right software development metrics should act as a loadstar, to practically guide your business from its location to your preferred destination for it. This means with KPI, we can chronicle the growth phases and stages of our business. With metrics, we can always reproduce our results, since we do not stumble on such achievement by guesswork or gut feeling, but by deliberate steps that software productivity measurement helps the Softermii team work better.

Failing to invest in compiling accurate business data, beyond the usual financial statements and reports, means business owners will continue to rely on “gut feelings” and assumptions when it comes to making decisions.

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What Are Software Development Productivity and Quality Measurement

To ensure that we are on the same page, let's define software measurement and software productivity. In basic parlance, software development productivity is defined as the proportion of the functional value of the software product to the efforts and cost of producing it.

This explanation makes room for the benefit of the customer from that software to influence the measurement of such software productivity. This method of measuring developer productivity is based on the value of results to the software consumer, which is more realistic than basing results on lines of code. Productivity metrics in software engineering have been defined by different scholars in their works on software.

However, a simplified combination of their perspectives on software development eventually comes to this. Software development measurement is not something that is confined to one stage or aspect of software development, but it runs through the entire cycle and engages all aspects of software development. In fact, it is almost the lifeblood of software development processes.

Softermii is ready to share the metrics we use when developing and testing various software products. Considering the rich eulogy of software development, you might be curious about what metrics are to measure, how to go about such measurements, and how these calculations affect your business.

What to Measure with Software Development Productivity Metrics

It is fundamental to understand that in every kind of measurement, there are units that are suitable for it. The case on software development is not any different, so for measuring software measurement, productivity metrics are involved. Though metrics is a term that appears in almost every business that indulges in the rather helpful habit of evaluation, software metrics, in particular, involve software productivity that guides all the project management process.

In this kind of journey, metrics serve as the tour guide that determines if you're on the right path towards your software development goal and also recommends what kind of methods and means are suitable for the software development in particular.

Various software performance metrics are the subjects of studies and research of different scholars like Baumert and McWhinney, 1992; Hammer et al., 1998; Loconsole, 2001; Paulk et al., 1993.

Many researchers offered several classifications of metrics. Still, they all seem to agree on a couple of things. Software engineering metrics are categorized differently, but some metrics may fall under more than one category.

Methods of Measuring & Types of Software Development Metrics

Now that you know what software productivity and measurement are, particularly software product development metrics, let’s move on.

Software quality metrics can improve software quality and help better understand how reliable, safe, and secure software is. Softermii knows how metrics fit software productivity and the process of its measuring since we’ve got lots of successful projects in our portfolio.

Particular metrics allow analyzing software productivity and effectiveness at various stages of its development. Let’s consider the trendiest metrics of measuring software developer productivity.

Performance Metrics

How to measure developer productivity

Software development performance metrics measure how well the solution works under different conditions, such as peak usage periods, network disruptions, and other challenges. They include response time, throughput, and central processing unit (CPU) utilization.

By tracking performance metrics, development teams can identify issues and bottlenecks in the software that may be affecting user experience or overall system performance.

Quality Metrics

Tools to measure developer productivity

Quality metrics typically include supplier performance, software defects, cycle times, and other internal or external features. They help identify issues more quickly, reducing the risk of negative impact on users and minimizing the cost of their addressing.

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Forecast Metrics

Forecasting is an important part of any planning activity. These metrics include estimated completion time, velocity, lead time, cycle time, backlog size, and work progress.

Forecast (capacity) metrics help predict the number of hours needed for different stages of work and foresee negative factors that may significantly impact the product. Also, they are essential for root cause analysis and timely detection of systematic changes in forecast accuracy.

Business Value Metrics

These metrics are individual indicators for every software solution. They usually include revenue, profit, customer acquisition, retention, etc.

Use them to measure the market value of a software product and ensure that it aligns with the company's goals and objectives. Provide careful management to ensure they give the right and objective answers to the relevant questions.

Project Timeline Metric

Managers can see how work focuses and volume change over time using the project timeline metric. In addition, they track progress toward meeting deadlines, including schedule variance, task completion time, and milestone achievement.

When it comes to a software project, cost and time are directly proportional. Too much time increases the project cost and results in a billing loss. Thus, the Project Timeline metric is crucial to deliver the projects on time or even before the deadline without going over budget.

Also, this metric helps visualize how different events impact the developers’ team performance and work out data-driven decisions accordingly.

Code Review Metric

Code review metrics measure the number of reviews, fixed defects, and taken time.

For developers, the practice of reviewing codes prevents the efforts and hours spent in processing the errors. Also, it reduces costs. Code reviews help detect project-specific tags pointing to new features, bug fixes, or other improvements. Also, they identify trends in code quality and areas that may require additional training or resources.

Agile Metrics

The Agile process metrics are based on prioritization, allowing developers to focus on a certain result and business goals. By breaking down a project into small tasks, identifying the most important ones becomes easier. Agile metrics track progress toward meeting goals in an Agile development environment, including sprint velocity, burn-down rate, and cycle time.

While business indicators help understand how the given product meets the market needs, Agile metrics evaluate different aspects of the development process. With them, you can reduce the time it takes to turn an idea into a software product and complete an order from start to finish.

Security Responses Metric

Security responses metrics facilitate decision-making and improve performance and accountability through collection, analysis, and reporting of performance-related data. Tracking a metric of security responses helps ensure the effectiveness of a project.

To measure the effectiveness of cybersecurity processes, managers have to consider the availability of data for analysis, the security of operational procedures, the automation of data collection, and the complexity of this process.

This metric is used to achieve the goals of information security, efficiency, cost-effectiveness, and the impact of cybersecurity on business processes. The risk of security responses is expressed as a function of threats, vulnerabilities, and potential impacts (or expected losses):

How to measure productivity in software development

Size-Oriented Metrics

Size-oriented metrics (e.g., lines of code and cyclomatic complexity) help development teams measure the complexity of their code. Use them to identify areas that may require additional testing or refactoring.

The advantages of size-oriented software performance metrics are that they are widely used and simple and easy to calculate. What about the disadvantages? They depend on the programming language and require initial data that can be difficult to obtain at the initial stage of the project.

Size-oriented metrics of productivity and quality are calculated using the following formulas:

Software engineering productivity metrics

How to measure development productivity

Function-Oriented Metrics

Instead of calculating the LOC score, function-oriented metrics do not consider the size but functionality and usefulness of the software product. You can ensure that your solution meets user needs and requirements with them.

They validate user input, issue error reports, reflect user queries, etc. The following five information characteristics are used: you can use the number of external inputs, pins, requests, and interface files, as well as internal logical files.

Mean Time between Failures (MTBF)

Software engineering KPIs

Understanding how outages and technical incidents happen is essential, as errors and failures lead to missed deadlines or payment delays. MTBF measures how long a component can be calculated during the last time between downtimes.

With it, you can understand how often incidents occur and how quickly the team resolves them. Tracking MTBF can help development teams identify potential issues in their software and take steps to prevent failures from occurring. It is also used for redundancy planning and customer services.

Mean Time to Recover (MTTR)

KPI metrics in software development

MTTR shows the average time it takes to recover a component after a failure. If the MTTR value of any critical component in a high availability installation exceeds RTO (Recovery Time Objective), then a system failure could result in unacceptable business disruption. It means that you will not be able to restore the system within a certain RTO value.

MTTR includes four different indicators: repair, respond, resolve, and recovery. Although these four features overlap, each has its meaning and characteristics.

Currently, many experts are arguing about the real benefits of MTBF and MTTR metrics. On the one hand, when these metrics are used separately from other indicators, these operational metrics do not answer the tough questions of how incidents are handled, what works and what does not, and how, when, and why problems escalate or subside.

On the other hand, MTBF and MTTR can be a good baseline and benchmark to discuss deeper and more important issues.

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Usability and UX Metrics

Usability metrics directly correlate with customer experience. From a formal point of view, it is the degree to which certain users can use a product to achieve their goals. For any usability assessment, consider software discoverability, efficiency, accessibility, memorability, learnability, and satisfaction.

Also, they often include users' emotional responses, such as how much they trust the given software. Such metrics can be considered a bridge between design, product, and business. That’s why you should also pay attention to loyalty, usability, and credibility.

Test Metrics

Test metrics measure test coverage, case pass/fail rates, and cycle time, as well as defect density and removal efficiency.

They allow you to pinpoint the parts of the software that need enhancement and make informed strategic decisions. Also, dev teams can track their progress over time, set goals and targets, and continuously improve the quality of their testing process.

Customer satisfaction metric

Measuring developer productivity

Customer satisfaction metric measures how satisfied customers are with a product or service. It uses surveys or other feedback mechanisms asking customers to rate their experience with the product or service.

By tracking customer satisfaction over time, companies can identify areas for improvement and make changes to their product or service to better meet customer needs. Finally, it helps increase customer loyalty and positive word-of-mouth, boosting revenue and profits.

Developer Performance Metrics That Don’t Work

It's essential to measure developer performance metrics that align with the goals and objectives of the software development project and promote a collaborative culture. Let’s overview useless metrics you shouldn’t use:

Worked Hours

Measuring developers' productivity based on the number of hours they work can lead to burnout and reduced quality of work. This metric doesn't account for the efficiency and effectiveness of the work done during those hours.

Lines of code

Rather than focusing on the amount of code to measure developer productivity, consider its efficiency, readability, etc. It will help to create an adequate vision of the work performed.

Fixed Bugs

Simply counting the number of bugs fixed doesn't account for the severity of the issue. Also, fixing without identifying and addressing the underlying cause may result in the same issue reoccurring.

Completed Tasks

This metric can incentivize developers to concentrate on smaller and easier tasks instead of more significant and complex ones that take more time.

Number of commits

Measuring the frequency of code changes doesn't reflect their quality or impact. It can push developers to make unnecessary changes just to meet a metric.

Software Engineering KPIs

KPIs for developers are one of the favorite topics in software development companies. Managers are accustomed to seeing specific results in numbers, such as the number of orders performed per month, the profit amount per year, and so on.

Such indicators are easy to measure. However, when compiling KPIs for developers, we have to consider that engineers are smart, creative, and, most importantly, passionate specialists. Software experts usually prefer to work out of frameworks and boundaries.

Thus, introducing perfect software development KPIs is not an easy task.

Today, many companies use key software development KPIs directly related to increasing the number of users or customers in less time spent. For this, automated systems and KPIs for software quality are used to constantly monitor whether the company is on the right track or not. If developer productivity metrics are not sufficient, you need to change the way the team works, try new technologies, and so on.

Such indicators as a number of defects or lines of code are rarely used since they do not increase sales and are hard to apply for the entire organization.

How do software engineers measure KPIs?

There are many tools to measure developer productivity. We prepared the list with the most popular ones and the parameters they track:

  • Jira — project progress, team performance, and bug tracking.
  • Trello — team productivity, task completion, and project progress.
  • GitHub — code quality, code review, and pull requests.
  • GitLab — continuous integration and deployment, security scanning, and monitoring.
  • CircleCI — build times, test coverage, and deployment frequency.
  • New Relic — response time, error rate, and throughput.
  • Google Analytics — website performance, user behavior, and conversion rates.

Example of using KPI metrics in software development

Let's say a development team is working on a new software project. The project is critical to the business, and the team is under pressure to deliver it on time and within budget. To ensure it stays on track, it’s essential to use KPIs to measure its progress.

By measuring cycle time, the team can identify how long it takes to complete development from start to finish. Suddenly, specialists find that their timeline is longer than expected, impacting their ability to deliver code quickly.

To fix it, the team analyzed their development process and decided to automate some parts of the testing and deployment to reduce the building time. This not only helps meet deadlines but also improves product quality.

As you see, KPIs help identify areas of improvement, allowing developers to optimize their workflows and deliver high-quality software on time.

Best practices for choosing and tracking KPIs

Now you know how to measure productivity in software development. But to choose and track KPIs effectively, you should follow the best practices we’ve prepared:

Align KPIs with business goals

Ensure that the development team is working towards the same goals as the rest of the organization. Choose KPIs that help measure progress towards specific business goals, such as revenue growth or customer satisfaction.

Choose relevant KPIs

Always consider your product and development specifics. For example, if the team is working on a mobile app, user engagement metrics such as daily active users or retention rate may be more relevant than metrics related to website traffic.

Keep it simple

Choose a few KPIs that are easy to understand and track. On the other hand, too many metrics can be overwhelming and may lead to a lack of focus on the most important ones.

Use SMART criteria

Ensure KPIs are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. It helps you drive growth, make better decisions, and achieve greater business success.

Regularly review and update KPIs

KPIs should be regularly reviewed and updated to remain relevant and practical as the development processes change and the business evolves.

Use data visualization tools

Data visualization tools make KPIs more understandable and easier to track. For example, dashboards and graphs provide a clear overview of progress toward KPIs.

Encourage collaboration

Use KPIs not to measure individual performance but rather to evaluate the team's effectiveness. Encourage collaboration to improve the development process continually.

Summing Up

The Softermii dedicated team offers a wide range of software development services using universal solutions, the latest technologies, and a systematic approach.

The process of software development and project management is organized in such a way as to provide our clients with full control and transparency of operations, as well as guarantee the final result with optimal indicators measured by various metrics.

Let's consider our experience on specific cases:

Radiant

Measuring software developer productivity

In this case, we were approached to create an interactive NFT platform. The Radiant project included the realization of progressive functions, including:

  • NFT catalog with minting function
  • Creating a cloud of points with its smooth reflection
  • 3D tours with the possibility of teleportation
  • Chatting in audio rooms

All of that became possible due to competent project management, high-skilled developers, and KPIs monitoring.

Soundit

Software development productivity metrics

Soundit aims to revolutionize how people interact with music by creating a seamless, personalized music streaming experience. Our main challenges included the following:

  • Algorithm for promotion of new users and interaction with them
  • Pods — chats for communication with the audience
  • 25 active speakers and up to 2000 listeners at the same time
  • Smooth viewing of feeds without lags

As a result, the client got a robust and user-friendly platform launched on time and received positive user feedback.

Streamotion

Software development performance metrics

The client wanted a new e-commerce application allowing sellers to broadcast videos for product demonstration and communication with potential buyers. Softermii had to provide the following:

  • Live and group broadcasts for partners and buyers
  • A built-in store for viewing lists of available products.
  • Online raffles with random participant selection
  • Integration with Paypal, Stripe, and Braintree payment systems.

With the help of good planning, we were able to create an effective MVP, Streamotion, in 7 months. Already in the first two weeks after launch, the application was downloaded by 20,000 users, and 65% are still actively using it. Today, potential buyers spend 25 minutes a day on the app.

Our team can quickly and efficiently develop various projects of any complexity and scale. Thus, choosing our company to develop the required software product will be the right decision. Feel free to get in touch with us.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Software Development Metrics Are Used in Softermii?

Our engineering team uses all the mentioned above metrics during the software development. The right metrics can help us monitor the project progress better, resolve rising issues at the onset, and continuously ramp up the order fulfillment speed and quality.

What Are the Main Software Development Metrics?

Different software metrics enable our team to measure software performance, plan work stages, increase productivity, etc. We can name agile, performance (velocity and throughput), and operational, customer satisfaction metrics among the most valuable indicators.

How Often Should You Check the Metrics?

Conventionally, software product development metrics can be divided into product, process, and project metrics. Also, the developer productivity metrics can tell about developers' productivity and other particular characteristics of the Softermii working team. There are hundreds of metrics in total, and it makes no sense to track them all every day. Managers of our team use specific metrics at different stages of software development.

What are KPIs in Agile?

In Agile, KPIs metrics provide insight into the team's progress toward its goals and objectives. They include velocity, cycle time, burn-down rate, and lead time. These metrics help identify areas for improvement and make data-driven decisions.

How to measure developer productivity?

You can use code analysis tools, time-tracking and project management software, version control systems, and communication tools to measure developer productivity. They allow for tracking code quality, development progress, task completion, and interaction among team members.

Which metrics do not indicate product quality?

Metrics such as lines of code written, number of commits, or hours worked do not necessarily indicate product quality, as they focus on quantity and activity rather than the actual impact of the work done.

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