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An Appropriate Use of Metrics

Patrick Kua

Management love their metrics. The thinking goes something like this, "We need a number to measure how we’re doing. Numbers focus people and help us measure success." Whilst well intentioned, management by numbers unintuitively leads to problematic behavior and ultimately detracts from broader project and organizational goals. Metrics inherently aren’t a bad thing; just often, inappropriately used. This essay demonstrates many of the issues caused by management’s traditional use of metrics and offers an alternative to address these dysfunctions.

19 February 2013



How do you improve the productivity of software developers?

16 December 2006



One of the commonly accepted beliefs in the software world is that talented programmers are more productive. Since we CannotMeasureProductivity this is a belief that cannot be proven, but it seems reasonable. After all just about every human endeavor shows some people better than others, often markedly so. It's also commonly observed by programmers themselves, although it always seems to be remarked on by those who consider themselves to be in the better talented category.

8 February 2008



Many people belive that you can't do a fixed price contract in an agile project. Since the whole point of an agile process is that you cannot predict the future, this isn't an unreasonable supposition. However this doesn't mean you can't come up with a fixed price agile contract, what it really means is that you can't come up with a fixed scope contract.

29 July 2003



A bunch of common misconceptions about pair-programming.

31 October 2006


Remote versus Co-located Work

There isn't a simple dichotomy of remote versus co-located work, instead there are several patterns of distribution for teams each of which has different trade-offs and effective techniques suitable for them. While it's impossible to determine conclusive evidence, my sense is that most groups are more productive working in a co-located manner. But you can build a more productive team by using a distributed working model, because it gives you access to a wider talent pool.

19 October 2015



We see so much emotional discussion about software process, design practices and the like. Many of these arguments are impossible to resolve because the software industry lacks the ability to measure some of the basic elements of the effectiveness of software development. In particular we have no way of reasonably measuring productivity.

29 August 2003



Is it worth the effort to design software well?

20 June 2007



One of my favorite soundbites is: if it hurts, do it more often. It has the happy property of seeming nonsensical on the surface, but yielding some valuable meaning when you dig deeper

28 July 2011



I commonly come across developers who are frustrated because "management want more features, they don't care about quality". I'm always sad when I hear this, because when I hear this I know that the developers, management and their customers have already lost. Their defeat has been caused by framing the situation in terms of the tradable quality hypothesis.

21 February 2011