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Has Software Productivity Increased or Decreased During COVID-19?

The first hope when this article is written is that health, people and economy have returned to the normal situation in every corner of the world, or at least that positive trends exist to reach it.

Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) has brought suddenly a lot of changes. The teleworking, telecommuting or working from home has been accelerated and implemented by necessity: to work remotely now in a lot of sectors, such as Information Technology (IT), is a must and not an option.

Focusing on IT, it can be read in a lot of places headlines announcing, or claiming, that the productivity of IT companies or IT departments has been increased (due to this remote working) or that at least this productivity has not decreased. Regarding this productivity concept, from the metrics point of view, it is interesting to recall that for managing the productivity we need to know the size of the work done, and the effort needed to do that.

We can say that the tasks have been accomplished on time, or that the effort spent in a concrete activity has been according to the planned effort, but standard productivity is something different. An interesting detail is that it is essential to have a high-precision recording of the effort because when working from home the effort can be more volatile and difficult to measure with precision.

IT strategic standard metrics in this virtual time (physically speaking) are essential for creating strong trust, transparence and sincerity between clients and IT providers, sharing clear and understandable metrics by all the parties, without any kind of cooking the books. For avoiding creating ad-hoc indicators and KPIs to project level, application level or even to company level, the eyes might be put in the highest-level perspective, applying worldwide standard metrics and indicators that bypass applications, companies and countries.

Recalling the IT software productivity, nothing can be measured without the size (so in enhancements as in creating IT products), and at this point IFPUG, like a lighthouse, brings light with its three worldwide methods: 1) IFPUG Functional Size, the ISO/IEC 20926 standard and even father and inspirator of other methods, 2) SiFP (Simple Function Points), and 3) SNAP (Software Non-Functional Assessment Process) method, the standard IEEE 2430-2019 that measures the Non Functional requirements.

COVID-19 is synonymous to a big-bang economic crisis, in spite that the most important are the health consequences. In just a few weeks a lot of things have changed: unemployment, sales drop, loss of benefits and crisis are words too common. A lot of things have collapsed like a house of cards.

We can say that the less affected are the essential ones or the best ones. But how essential or good is a company? What add value does the company or its products provide? Metrics, trends, analysis and projections are essential and companies might take advantage of those analysis.

It can be said that a first group of companies consider IT metrics as something essential and taken into consideration to base decisions on for years. For this group, metrics are “a must” and are essential to take strategic decisions to C’s levels, in addition to other levels. They provide a long past historical perspective that help to anticipate future trends, a kind of “what if…?,” or even “what happened when we did a set of actions in the past?”

Those companies have a set of golden information to multiple levels, starting from the drivers that can affect positively or negatively the productivity, the quality and the time-to-market, amongst others. To know, for example, how competitive is a company versus the competitors, or even what can happen if enter into scene a set of scenarios. Those metrics will bypass projects, technologies and companies.

A company can focus mainly in financial metrics, without putting too much focus in having deeper indicators such as “why the company has good results?” or “which ones are the drivers that have contributed in the previous years, and now, in the economic success?” or “in what position is the company versus competitors or versus standards?” Even, in the case of having excellent economic results, if the productivity is low, if the product quality is just normal and if the product cost (for example due to dinosauric company costs or to a high non-productive pyramid, all of this combined with a low productivity) is high, then actions might be taken.

The objective is not only to have strategic info but that this info is sincere, without any kind of cooking the books or fabrication. Multi-axis info and with multiple objectives might be managed, such as if the company or IT provider has an excellent ratio productivity vs quality vs time-to-market vs costs vs value vs service spirit. If all of this is accomplished, if the company has a good vision, mission and common sense, and if the product is innovative then it can be offered the best valued product.

A second group of companies or IT departments implement metrics programs, but perhaps more focused in just having metrics or fulfilling requirements (such as to be able to affirm that Productivity metrics, for example, are managed) or certifications (such as we fulfill the Measurements and Analysis CMMI process area) than in providing strategic information and taking advantage of them. Metrics will exist but sometimes can be more focused on having good numbers than on ensuring the numbers are the real ones. Something like if you publish a picture from yourself in Instagram but to publish it, you have taken previously 100 pictures, you have selected the best one from those 100 pictures and even you have applied some magic touch of Photoshop to the selected one. This picture is yours? Yes. This picture refers to your real you? Perhaps not.

Facts such as to penalize projects or teams with bad indicators but with honest numbers that give credibility to the metrics, and in the opposite way to reward projects with perfect metrics results but adding non-nice practices such the mentioned above (select the best picture and to apply Photoshop-to-the numbers techniques) are indicators to non-mature companies because you will not have the real numbers, the real reasons and the real conclusions.

Obviously a third group exists. It considers that to manage metrics, to know them and to take advantage of them are just fiction because they have the perception (feelings more than numbers) that they are the best ones. During crisis times, they can recall the idea of not having strategic, and recorded, info was not a good idea. Implementing metrics plans is something that takes time: not only to implement the plan but to have historical info and metrics objectives, historical changes, revisions and corrections. Even, not having those dozens of “What if…?” and “Why…?” questions answered in numbers for years is not a good idea, too. These companies can be a little bit like a great ship on the high seas, in the middle of the storm, without an engine, and carried by the high waves.

To be in the first group might be something essential. To know the competitivity using standard metrics might not be considered as an option, but as a must. In these changing times, and always, it is needed to bring the best high value to customer and to companies.

Metrics and metrics areas or departments might not be considered as a cost but as an investment: strategic activity that provides golden-key information and provides guidance to companies and to its C’s levels. If providing this guidance is important in sunny days, it is even more important in the night or in dark times, perhaps synonymous to the actual time. The IFPUG standard worldwide methods that permit to manage strategic metrics—and to compare indicators and trends with internal and external worldwide indicators—are essential and might be a lighthouse to help IT projects, IT products and companies to arrive correctly and safely to the port. In just a few months a lot of things have changed.


Published in MetricViews IFPUG.


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