Metrics of success in development – Part 1

How do you find out if your development organization is functioning well? Naturally, if you are getting products out on time, consistently, and the world around you is happy with the results, you have nothing to worry about.

But what if there ARE complaints?
Can you determine whether you’re hearing gripes that have little to do with you? Or whether there really is room for improvement?

I’m working on a self-assessment tool, probably containing about 10 questions, that will help you evaluate whether you are on track. The way to use the tool is to answer the questions and then count the points at the end.

Here are the first three questions in my current working draft:

1. Counting only the past 3 projects and products under your management, how many have been completed on time? For each project/product not completed on time, how much later were they completed?

[4 points] for each project completed on or before the originally scheduled completion date
[3 points] for each project completed within 120% of the originally scheduled duration
[2 points] for each project completed within 150% of the originally scheduled duration
[1 point ] for each project completed after more than 150% of the originally scheduled duration
[0 points] for each project which is never completed

2. During the time that those 3 projects or products were being developed, how much turnover did you experience among your technical staff, including first-level supervisors and managers? Turnover means departed or transferred out from project teams or management without being invited to do so by you or your managers.

[3 points] less than 5%
[2 points] between 5% and 15%
[1 points] between 15% and 30%
[0 points] over 30%

3. In those 3 projects or products, how much of the planned functionality was delivered (at the completion date you used for question 1)?

[add 3 points] for each project in which you delivered all of the planned functionality, plus additional functionality defined after the start of the project.
[add 2 points] for each project in which you delivered all of the planned functionality
[add 1 point] for each project in which you delivered at least half of the planned functionality
[add 0 points] for each project in which you delivered less than half of the planned functionality

If your total points add up to 24,
you have a perfectly-performing development organization and have no need for improvement. For the rest of us, the points are probably in the following ranges:
Excellent: 18 to 24 points
Good: 12 to 17 points
Fair: 6 to 11 points
Poor: 5 points or fewer

Shipping products on time
is the key result that most of your stakeholders want. Shipping the product with the features and functions that they asked for — or expect — is next in line as a measure of your success. But if you are burning out your development crew — and causing turnover as a result — you won’t be able to sustain the results. Therefore, these are the first few measures that tell you whether the organization is successful and sustainable.

Next time we’ll begin looking at other measures that can tell you whether your management practices are helping you build a development organization that is consistent and successful for the long run.

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    About John Levy

    John Levy works with senior managers in mid-sized organizations who are responsible for development and delivery of major software or hardware/software products. He helps them gain confidence that their projects will succeed.

    Development projects can fail in many ways. You need a guide who speaks the language of business and is knowledgeable about technology. John aligns Development with the organization's strategy so it will contribute efficiently to the success of the enterprise.

    John has been consulting for over 20 years. His book on managing high-tech teams, Get Out of the Way, was published in 2010.

    For more information, email him at, or call 415 663-1818.
    And check out John's profiles on LinkedIn and Twitter!