ComputerWorld: Can we measure performance in programming?

Your best programmer might write 10 or 20 times the amount
of code as your worst programmer in the same amount of

“Counting lines of code or using another measure that takes
complexity into account, like function points, may still be useful
sometimes, such as when comparing programmers creating very similar
applications. But what do we do when one company takes twice as
long to develop a similar software product, then sells 10 million
times as many copies? Physical productivity is almost irrelevant.
We should be able to measure this other kind of productivity in
economic terms — such as sales or profits per programmer.”

“This measure, though, also has problems. It penalizes companies
with weak marketing and sales organizations or the inability to
bundle products. PowerPoint, for example, generated minimal sales
before Microsoft introduced Office. Bundling this product with Word
and Excel to create Office, which now produces billions of dollars
in sales and profits, made the PowerPoint team enormously more
productive in terms of sales per programmer. Then we have “free”
software, like Internet Explorer, Netscape Navigator, Apache and
Linux. We can’t easily measure economic productivity for products
that have no price.”