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IT Measurement Program Implementation Approaches

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Software organizations need a way to manage workload and decide what to do, how to do it, and when to do it. This is where measurement comes in. Learn how successful companies use IT measurement programs in a continual cycle to define goals and initiatives, define the measures to support goals, and define the data necessary to calculate the measures.
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Measurement processes have become a necessary and important part of today's software organization. To compete in an ever-changing, fast-moving, and competitive industry, one needs to work productively, efficiently, and with a high level of quality. The days of using "gut feel" to make decisions about development opportunities are over. Software organizations need a way to manage workload and decide what to do, how to do it, and when to do it. This is where measurement comes in. Having data and historical analyses about the organization aids in the decision-making process.

Most software professionals understand the need for measurement, but unfortunately, implementing a process that becomes repeatable and integrated into the software development and maintenance life cycle can still be a struggle. Often the struggle results from the culture change required in the organization. People think the process will be too difficult to manage, or they believe it is just a fad and will go away. These issues can be resolved by approaching the definition and implementation of the measurement process in a planned and organized method and by involving the development staff at appropriate times. A common mistake made by organizations is to decide they want a measurement process and then say "What data do we already have that can be analyzed?" This mistake can cause a measurement process to fail. Unless the measures developed are meaningful and useful to all levels of the organization, the measurement process will not be successful.

The best approach to defining and implementing a measurement process is to first define what the organization needs or wants to know and then choose appropriate measures. Once the measures are defined, the next step is to focus on the specific data collection needed to support the measures. Specifically, the process involves the following steps, which will be discussed in detail in individual sections:

  1. Define goals and initiatives

  2. Define the measures to support the goals and initiatives

  3. Define the data to support the measures

  4. Define the reporting of the measures

  5. Implement the process

Here are some benefits to be gained by following these steps:

  • Goals and initiatives in organizations receive focus and attention. By defin-ing measures associated with these goals and initiatives, the measures become part of something already in place, so they're meaningful to all employees. Integrating the measures is then easier. In addition, the measures help determine if the goals and initiatives are progressing as planned or if they need adjustments.

  • To define goals and initiatives, employees at all levels of the organization must be interviewed. When employees are involved in defining the process, they take some ownership in what is eventually implemented, which again eases integration.

  • Often organizations start off their measurement process with as many measures as they can think of. When the five steps are followed, the scope of measures can be managed so that data collection or analysis overwhelms no one.

  • When collecting data, computing measures, and completing analyses, one may often hear the question "Why?" If the measures are tied to goals and initiatives, that question becomes easier to answer. A measurement specialist never wants to reply "Because it's required." When the steps are followed, the purpose of the measure is always documented and explained.

The five-step approach described in more detail in the following sections enables organizations to achieve the benefits and successfully implement a measurement program.

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