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Abstract

In a large software company in Denmark, much effort was expended capturing metrics about the company’s software operation. The purpose of the metrics program was to change and improve the software operation. Writing software can be understood as a socially constructed practice, which can be analyzed using structuration theory. This structurational analysis showed that the company’s software operation followed an easily recognizable and widely understood pattern. The software operation was organized in terms of development projects leading to applications that then needed maintenance, and displayed a heavy focus on project development work and hitting the project deadline. Study of the metrics program (and the computer software underpinning it) revealed that the familiar pattern was also inscribed into the metrics software, heavily influencing the company’s metrics practice. Rather than challenge the underlying social practice of the software operation, the metrics program reinforced it by adopting the same underlying values. Our conclusion is that, under these circumstances, metrics programs are unlikely to result in radical changes to the software operation, and are best suited to small, incremental improvements.

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