Monitoring Evolution of Code Complexity and Magnitude of Changes
Journal article, 2014
Background: Complexity management has become a crucial activity in continuous software
development. While the overall perceived complexity of a product grows rather insignificantly,
the small units, such as functions and files, can have noticeable complexity growth with every
increment of product features. This kind of evolution triggers risks of escalating fault-proneness
and deteriorating maintainability.
Goal: The goal of this research was to develop a measurement system which enables effective
monitoring of complexity evolution.
Method: An action research has been conducted in two large software development organiza-tions. We have measured three complexity and two change properties of code for two large
industrial products. The complexity growth has been measured for five consecutive releases of
products. Different patterns of growth have been identified and evaluated with software engi-neers in industry.
Results: The results show that monitoring cyclomatic complexity evolution of functions and
number of revisions of files focuses the attention of designers to potentially problematic files
and functions for manual assessment and improvement. A measurement system was developed
at Ericsson to support the monitoring process.
software engineering metrics