How Do You Know Your Metrics Are Any Good

WRITTEN BY Derek Huether

How to create good metricsYou want to create some metrics.  More importantly, someone has told you that you need to create some.  How do you know if you’re just making work for yourself or if you’re just putting a spin on the same old data?

Ask yourself what the goals are.

In trying to determine what to measure in order to achieve those goals, I recommend using a Goal-Question-Metric (GQM) paradigm. It can actually be applied to all life-cycle products, processes, and resources. I’ve been using this process for years and it really helps me create a quality metric, independent of processess lifecycle.

The GQM paradigm is based on the theory that all measurement should be [1] goal-oriented i.e., there has to be some rationale and need for collecting measurements, rather than collecting for the sake of collecting. Each measurement collected is stated in terms of the major goals. [2] Questions are then derived from the goals and help to refine, articulate, and determine if the goals can be achieved. [3] The metrics or measurements that are collected are then used to answer the questions in a quantifiable manner.

Here is an example of the GQM in action:

Goal 1

Maintain a maximum level of customer satisfaction

Question 1

What is the current help desk ticket trend?

Metric 1
Metric 2
Metric 3
Metric 4
Metric 5
Number of help desk tickets closed
Number of new help desk tickets open
Total number of help desk tickets open
% tickets outside of the upper limit
Subjective rating of customer satisfaction

Question 2

Is the help desk satisfaction improving or diminishing?

Metric 6
Metric 7
Metric 8
Metric 9
Number of help desk calls abandoned
Number of help desk calls answered
Number of help desk calls sent to voicemail
Subjective rating of customer satisfaction

As the great Lord Kelvin once said, “If you can not measure it, you can not improve it.”

Image based on Basili, Caldiera, and Rombach “The Goal Question Metric Approach“, 1990
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