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Effective metrics for software products and processes in a custom software development environment

Measurement is an integral part of total quality management and process improvement strategies. Measurement is undertaken to understand and improve processes. A software measurement programme allows organisations to improve their understanding of the development and support processes, leading to rational, planned improvements. Measurement programmes also provide organisations with the ability to prioritize and concentrate their efforts on areas needing the greatest improvements.

Use of a company-wide software metrics database has allowed the Italian software consultancy Engineering Ingegneria Informatica (EII) SpA to significantly reduce development costs in large complex projects The methodology characterized the company's development process for turnkey projects, focusing on two main aspects: productivity (at delivery and at the end of the guarantee period) and defectiveness. Various technological, methodological, organisational and cultural factors were considered, chosen for their relevance across a significant part of the development lifecycle. EII selected the Goal-Question-Metric (GQM) method as a means of defining and documenting the links between the measurements and the goals. The most important output in the GQM approach is the GQM plan, which relates the organization's goals to the metrics used to evaluate how far the goals have been met. Producing a GQM plan is analogous to defining the requirements of a software product, and the plan should be regularly reviewed. EII found that the systematic approach enforced by GQM proved effective in helping the company achieve an internally-consistent measurement programme. The GQM approach is complemented by refined statistical analysis techniques for the definition of statistical baselines and the detection of anomalies.


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