Software Engineering: Why Has it Eluded Data-Driven Management?

Imagine yourself as a fly on the wall of an executive boardroom, listening to the heads of each corporate division present an overview of the past year:

Marketing will share a range of metrics on lead conversion, cost per lead and ROI on marketing spend; Sales will walk through a detailed, quantitative breakdown of the sales funnel; Finance will present a broad set of Key Performance Indicators; the operations and customer retention teams will similarly present a variety of critical metrics.

But, what about the software engineering organization? We can speak to features delivered, story points completed and ticket velocity… but these are all subjective measurements, not meaningful metrics based on hard data.

Even though much of a company’s value is directly tied to their investment in software, most executives operate in the dark when it comes to understanding the performance of their engineering team. Instinct and ‘gut feelings’ are the best tools we’ve had to make decisions about budget items costing millions of dollars.