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Software Metrics Every SRE Team Should Measure

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Myra Nizami
Myra Nizami
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Software metrics give important insight into the performance of your product, but which ones matter most to SRE teams? How do you decide which metrics to track?

What are software metrics?

Software metrics are a standard measure of some aspects of the software’s performance and are generally divided into process metrics and project metrics. Software metrics give managers an insight into the performance of the software and can be used to identify and prioritize any issues. 

If you’re trying to create the best customer experience possible, having a clear and defined software metric plan is necessary. It ensures that teams deliver customers a reliable and valuable solution and a clearly defined strategy for the team to work towards. 

Broadly, software metrics that teams may track include:

Why is it important to track software metrics?

Software metrics are essential for teams and senior stakeholders because they provide deep insight into how the software is performing when running. Using software metrics, teams can come together to improve certain aspects of the software, develop new solutions, and continually improve. In addition, for senior stakeholders, software metrics are an integral part of understanding business performance.

Using a software metrics tool, the data collected can show return on investments (ROI) on software improvements, areas that need improvement, and optimization opportunities. The metrics are also helpful in understanding whether additional resources are needed and with cost and effort calculations. Software metrics are also instrumental for understanding productivity, performance, and what direction the software can move towards based on business needs. For the software to truly evolve in a way that makes sense for businesses and customers, software metrics are crucial. 

What metrics make sense for software reliability?

Errors and failures will happen in every software solution, but there are ways to improve and streamline. Identifying reliability-related metrics and having an SRE team work to meet metric goals ensures that reliability remains a priority for customers while bridging the gap between development and operations teams. 

SLOs and SLAs

The starting point is to identify the right software metrics to track, depending on the teams and needs. SRE metrics focus on reliability from an operational and development angle based on customer impact. For SREs, the goal will be to set a reliability target or service level objectives (SLOs) to measure reliability against. Service level agreements (SLAs) are based on measurable characteristics and serve as an agreement between the service provider and customer. The SLOs serve as a target value and help teams understand performance over time. It provides a clear roadmap for what’s needed now and what the expectations are long-term for reliability. 

However, for SLOs and SLAs to actually work, being realistic is key. Set attainable goals and collaboration among teams to ensure it stays a priority rather than falling by the wayside. How can you balance healthy levels of service while keeping user experience a priority? The answer won’t come immediately, which is why it’s so important to work together to create meaningful SLOs. Using service level indicators (SLIs) based on how customers use your service helps bring things together for teams under a shared focus on customer happiness. You can start to define what a healthy level of service means for your specific business context and how those metrics relate to SLOs.

Error budgets

Once there are broad agreements on SLOs and SLAs, teams must establish an error budget. While reliability is core for the solution, there needs to be some leeway for teams to innovate and potentially fail. New features and functionalities are integral for continued customer satisfaction but can lead to reliability issues. Balancing development velocity and reliability that satisfies customers is essential. 

An error budget allows teams to experiment as needed while ensuring that the product stays reliable enough. Rather than aiming for 100% reliability all the time, error budgets are put in place to give teams the space needed to add new features and functionalities with some room to breathe. However, if updates threaten to violate the SLOs, that reduces the error budget for new features. Teams must work together to strike a balance between the two and ensure they track SLOs using software metrics tools to get the most accurate picture possible.

Other helpful metrics

These additional metrics can give you a more complete picture of your software's health.

  • Incident source - tracking the source of incidents by studying metadata tagged to them can help you understand the health of your software, including whether or not you’re dealing with production incidents.
  • Average failure rate - this is a simple metric that shows the rate of occurrence of failure for a part of your service. By studying it, you can understand where your software may need improvements. This also shows you your mean time to failure, which is the average time between failures.
  • Mean time to repair - this is the average length of time between your software failing and your team repairing it to functionality. This is different from mean time to resolve, which deals with the time it takes to fully change the system based on the cause of the incident, and mean time to recover, which deals with the time it takes for the service to be operable to users, even if the cause of the outage hasn’t been fixed. These MTTR metrics show how your response teams are able to work with your system.

How do I measure software metrics in a meaningful way?

There are a few different ways you can set up performance indicators to benchmark team performance and measure how well things are going. Some of the KPIs can include: 

  • Cycle times and delivery times: Are teams going faster each cycle or slowing down? 
  • Time to deployment compared to reliability: If deployment is happening faster, but code quality isn’t up to scratch, that impacts the customer experience. Looking at deployment and reliability together helps paint a clearer picture of what’s happening each time. 
  • Quality: Software quality can be measured in various ways, so this will largely depend on how teams come together to define quality and how it’s measured. It could be based on the number of bug fixes that a release requires, or how efficiently required features are added.
  • Customer experience: All roads lead back to customer experience. If fast deployment and performance issues go hand-in-hand, customers will complain. Or if customers are largely happy with the solution, even with occasional performance issues, it gives teams room to breathe and innovate. 
  • Team velocity: How fast is the team working, and what is their output?

 

Ultimately, software metrics are very much about understanding and tracking progress. But, of course, that will look different based on the product, business goal, customer base, and more. That’s why it’s integral for teams to come together to define software metrics that make the most sense for them and use the right software metrics tools to track progress. Without agreeing on metrics, your teams won’t know which direction to spend their efforts.

Seeing quantifiable results, especially over time, give teams a clear idea of what’s going well and where improvement is needed without assigning blame. Not all metrics need to be tracked, or they may not make sense for your team. Think about creating a dashboard with the metrics your team needs to feel empowered and metrics that give them the most clarity on short-term and longer-term priorities. 

How Blameless can help

If you’re looking for software metric tools to accelerate development velocity while ensuring reliability, Blameless is the right fit. With Blameless, teams can use features such as the SLO Manager to define and track SLOs seamlessly. Using the SLO manager, teams can create user journeys, define, monitor, and report SLIs and SLOs to keep track of error budgets and configure alerts as needed. 

Additionally, Blameless also has features that make tracking incident metrics easier and streamlined, ensuring that teams have everything they need to hit their reliability goals. Learn more about how Blameless empowers teams and accelerates development velocity by scheduling a free demo today!

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