Tutorial: Software metrics - Pitfalls & Best Practices

The International Conference on Software Engineering (ICSE) is one of the (if not the) largest conference on software engineering in the world. This year, the conference will take place in the Hyatt Regency, San Francisco, U.S.A. 

At this conference, Arie van Deursen, Joost Visser and I will be organizing a three-hour tutorial. To quote our proposal: 

Using software metrics to keep track of the progress and quality of products and processes is a common practice in industry. Additionally, designing, validating and improving metrics is an important research area. Although using software metrics can help in reaching goals, the effects of using metrics incorrectly can be devastating. 

In this tutorial we leverage 10 years of metrics-based risk assessment experience to illustrate the benefits of software metrics, discuss different types of metrics and explain typical usage scenario’s. Additionally, we explore various ways in which metrics can be interpreted using examples solicited from participants and practical assignments based on industry cases. During this process we will discuss four common pitfalls of using software metrics.

In particular, we explain why metrics should be placed in a context in order to maximize their benefits. A methodology based on benchmarking to provide such a context is discussed and illustrated by a model designed to quantify the technical quality of a software system. Examples of applying this model in industry are given and challenges involved in interpreting such a model are discussed. 

This tutorial provides an in-depth overview of the benefits and challenges involved in applying software metrics. At the end you will have all the information you need to use, develop and evaluate metrics constructively.  

It is yet unclear when the tutorial takes place (either before or after the main conference), I will update this post as soon as this information is available. The tutorial has been given on May 21, see the ICSE program for more details. The slides are now available by clicking here.

Meanwhile, please feel free to share your thoughts, remarks or questions on this topic via the comments or any other means of communication!