What KPIs do you use to measure your software development efforts?

The large majority of companies have only an opaque view into their application portfolio and development efforts. Development managers typically provide updates to middle managers, and eventually up to the executive team, but the challenge with this process is that software development is inherently complex. It’s extremely difficult to get a complete and consistent view across business units, teams, service providers, projects, and applications.

When each semi-autonomous team or business unit uses its own KPIs, it’s impossible to compare results across the organization. And so, the further you are from the code, the less oversight you have. Rather than proactively steering the organization, many CIOs have no choice but to manage through layers of trust and escalations. The status quo in most organizations tends to be reactive software management when things go wrong. As a result, it is difficult for the management team to identify risks to the business ahead of time, or spot otherwise obvious opportunities for growth.

That said, there are some advantages for developers in today’s IT world. Engineering teams can be highly flexible when they each use their own preferred processes to optimize software cycles. Many groups track specific team-level or developer-level metrics to monitor their progress. For example, you might measure things like the number of bugs, test coverage, release milestones, or system performance.

While empowering teams and given them some amount of autonomy is an important factor in talent retention, having a set of holistic software metrics to guide the company is equally critical. Thankfully, you don’t have to choose between developer-level or company-level metrics. And you don’t have to change how developers work or the development tools they’re comfortable working with. By analyzing the data you already have and looking at footprints in the code, you can distill actionable KPIs that are applicable to developers, mid-level managers, and even the c-suite.

No one in the boardroom wants to feel like they’re flying blind. But that’s too often what’s happening when I’m sitting next to our CFO or CRO. Unlike them, I don’t have powerful metrics to show when giving an update on our double to triple digit million dollar software investment. In software, there aren’t simple KPIs like those used by finance, HR, sales

To do this, the first step is connecting your various systems of record to a system of intelligence. This will help you move from the status quo to transparency, the second stage of software development maturity.