Most valuable metrics for a software project:
The Pizza Metric
How: Count the number of pizza boxes in the lab.
What: Measures the amount of schedule under-estimation. If people are spending enough after-hours time working on the project that they need to have meals delivered to the office, then there has obviously been a mis-estimation somewhere.
The Aspirin Metric
How: Maintain a centrally-located aspirin bottle for use by the team. At the beginning and end of each month, count the number of aspirin remaining aspirin in the bottle.
What: Measures stress suffered by the team during the project. This most likely indicates poor project design in the early phases, which causes over-expenditure of effort later on. In the early phases, high aspirin-usage probably indicates that the product’s goals or other parameters were poorly defined.
The Beer Metric
How: Invite the team to a beer bash each Friday. Record the total bar bill.
What: Closely related to the Aspirin Metric, the Beer Metric measures the frustration level of the team. Among other things, this may indicate that the technical challenge is more difficult than anticipated.
The Creeping Feature Metric
How: Count the number of features added to the project after the design has been signed off, but that were not requested by any requirements definition.
What: This measures schedule slack. If the team has time to add features that are not necessary, then there was too much time allocated to a schedule task.
The “Duck!” Metric
How: This one is tricky, but a likely metric would be to count the number of engineers that leave the room when a marketing person enters. This is only valid after a requirements document has been finalized.
What: Measures the completeness of the initial requirements. If too many requirements changes are made after the product has been designed, then the engineering team will be wary of marketing, for fear of receiving yet another change to a design which met all initial specifications.
The Status Report Metric
How: Count the total number of words dedicated to the project in each engineer’s status report.
What: This is a simple way to estimate the smoothness with which the project is running.
If things are going well, an item will likely read, “I talked to Fred; the widgets are on schedule.”
If things are not going as well, it will say, “I finally got in touch with Fred after talking to his phone mail for nine days straight. It appears that the widgets will be delayed due to snow in the Ozarks, which will cause the whoozits schedule to be put on hold until widgets arrive. If the whoozits schedule slips by three weeks, then the entire project is in danger of missing the July deadline.”