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Engineering Team Metrics

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Top 5 Tips for Choosing Metrics

When you begin your journey with data, one of the first questions you must ask is “What should I measure?” In a nearly unlimited sea of potential metrics, what will help you best succeed?

We, along with most experts in product management, advise teams to start small. Track a few key metrics, discover what you can learn from them, and then add to or abandon that initial data based on the value you find.

We’ve developed a few tips to help you choose your first metrics:

1. Always link metrics to goals

If you don’t know what you are trying to achieve, your numbers will be fairly useless. We’ve all seen how data can be selectively cited or manipulated to support a position after the fact. Tying your metric to a goal will help you to ensure your numbers have integrity.

A goal is important to helping your team and stakeholders understand the context of the numbers you share. If you are aligned around a common goal, your data will help you to stay focused and better understand if your actions are moving you closer to what you want to achieve.

Having a goal can also help you stop measuring, since when you have reached a goal, tracking that data may be effort you no longer need to spend.

In Agile, a paradigm called Goal-Question-Measure can help you refine your goals into trackable metrics that reflect your success.

2. Track trends, not just absolute numbers

Numbers are beautiful, but often the truth lies in how your data tracks over time. Just as a single photograph might not tell the whole story about someone’s looks, data becomes more meaningful when you see how it reflects the bigger picture.

You might set a goal, and tracking your success over time can tell you if you are heading in the right direction, how close you are to achieving it, and, when compared to other data, what factors may be helping or standing in your way.

Trends can also be motivating, especially if your goal seems impossibly far away. If your team sees that you are heading in the right direction, they can feel more confident about their performance and the investment in the work to be done.

Additional reading

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