Software Metrics: Successes, Failures, and New Directions

[article]
Summary:

The history of software metrics is almost as old as the history of software engineering. Yet, the extensive research and literature on the subject has had little impact on industrial practice. This is worrying given that the major rationale for using metrics is to improve the software engineering decision making process from a managerial and technical perspective.

The history of software metrics is almost as old as the history of software engineering. Yet, the extensive research and literature on the subject has had little impact on industrial practice. This is worrying given that the major rationale for using metrics is to improve the software engineering decision making process from a managerial and technical perspective.

Industrial metrics activity is invariably based around metrics that have been around for nearly 30 years (notably Lines of Code or similar size counts, and defects counts). While such metrics can be considered as massively successful given their popularity, their limitations are well known, and mis-applications are still common. The major problem is in using such metrics in isolation. We argue that it is possible to provide genuinely improved management decision support systems based on such simplistic metrics, but only by adopting a less isolationist approach.

About the author

Norman Fenton's picture Norman Fenton

Norman Fenton is Professor of Computing Science at the Centre for Software Reliability, City University, London and also Managing Director of Agena Ltd, a company specializing in risk management for critical computer systems. He is a Chartered Engineer who previously held academic posts at University College Dublin, Oxford University and South Bank University where he was Director of the Centre for Systems and Software Engineering. He has been project manager and principal researcher in many major collaborative projects. His recent and current projects cover the areas of: software metrics; safety critical systems assessment; Bayesian nets for systems' assessment; software reliability tools. Professor Fenton has written several books on software metrics and related subjects.

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