The introduction of agile has transformed the way companies work. Agile has worked wonders for firms, and the positive effects are out in the open—shorter time to market and lower costs, just to name a few. But companies can’t take advantage of the full benefits of agile just by making the switch. Without bringing agile metrics into the picture, using agile won’t bring much value to a company.
Agile metrics help monitor productivity across the stages of the software development life cycle (SDLC). This helps to assess the quality of a product and track team performance. In this post, we’re going to discuss 7 agile metrics that matter for success. We’ll take a look at why they’re important for a firm.
So, let’s dive into the details.
What Are Agile Metrics?
Metrics are nothing but standards of measurement. Agile metrics are standards that help a software team in monitoring how productive a team is across the different phases of the SDLC.
Agile metrics are an essential component of the development process. For companies or teams that work on the agile framework, agile metrics help in assessing software quality.
Agile metrics help keep the team's performance in check by measuring how productive a team is. If there are any loopholes, they expose them at the initial stages. Since the data and its usage are measurable, it's easier to work on the shortcomings with the help of these metrics. For example, velocity metrics can help you track your team's output.
Importance of Agile Metrics
Now that we know what agile metrics are, let’s break down how they work. The entire concept of agile rests on continuous improvement (CI). But this isn’t something that you can impose on teams. It has to come from within. In short, self-improvement (SI) is a must. So, it’s safe to say that CI isn’t possible without SI.
Immediate delivery is an important component of agile. But one shouldn’t overlook SI in this case. Teams practicing SI give better results than those who don’t. But having a sustainable and effective SI is not child’s play. It’s a long-term process and needs a management framework. By tracking software quality and team performance, agile metrics support SI. In a way, these metrics directly impact CI.
Apart from improving continuity, delivering a high-quality product is also a vital part of agile. However, striking the balance between these two can be challenging. This gives rise to the need for metrics against which teams can measure progress. All in all, agile metrics help teams become self-managing. They also help firms in delivering value. At the same time, CI becomes a part of the workflow without much effort.
Agile Metrics Important for Your Project
Agile metrics measure different aspects of project development. Here are some agile metrics important for your project. They’ll help you understand the development process better. Additionally, they’ll ease the process of overall software release.
1. Sprint Burndown
The sprint burndown chart visualizes how many story points have been completed during the sprint and how many remain and helps forecast if the sprint scope will be completed on time. Since a sprint is time-bound, it's important to track task progress frequently. A sprint burndown report is for tracking the completion of different tasks during a sprint. Time and work left to complete are the two main parameters of measurement in this case. The X-axis refers to the time. The Y-axis represents the work remaining. The unit of measurement is hours, days, or story points. The team forecasts the workload at the beginning of a sprint. The target is to complete the workload by the end of the sprint.
Why it is powerful: Makes it instantly clear how much value a sprint has already delivered and how close we are to completing our commitment to customers.
2. Agile Velocity
Velocity measures how many story points were completed by a team on average, over the past few sprints. It can be used to predict the team’s output in the upcoming sprints. The accuracy of the forecast depends on the number of iterations. The more iterations, the more precise the forecast. The unit of measurement is hours or story points. Velocity also determines the ability of a team to work through backlogs. As time passes, velocity tends to evolve. To ensure consistent performance, it’s important to track velocity. If the velocity declines, it’s a sign that the team needs to fix something.
Why it is powerful: Velocity is powerful because it's a result metric – how much value was delivered to customers in a series of sprints. Be careful not to compare velocity across teams because story points and definitions of done can vary between teams.
3. Lead Time
Lead time measures the total time from the moment a story enters the system (in the backlog), until it is completed as part of a sprint, or released to customers. It measures the total time for a requirement to be realized and start earning value – the speed of your value chain.
Why it is powerful: In a sense, lead time is more important than velocity because it measures the entire agile system from end to end. Reducing lead time means the entire development pipeline is becoming more efficient.
4. Cycle Time
As illustrated above, the cycle time is a subset of lead time – it measures the time for a task to go from "started" or "in progress" to "done". Normally, cycle times should be around half the sprint length. If cycle times are longer than a sprint, teams are not completing the work they committed to.
Why it is powerful: A very simple metric that can raise a red flag when items within sprints across your entire system are not moving forward.
5. Cumulative Flow
This is a Kanban metric that shows the status of tasks – in a sprint, a release, or across software teams. It can visualize bottlenecks in the process – a disproportionately large number of tasks in any of the workflow stages indicate a problem. For example, a big “bubble” in the chart during the verification or testing stage indicates this stage has insufficient resources.
Why it is powerful: As with the burndown chart, the power of this metric is in its visual simplicity – you can grasp a process in one glance and immediately identify issues. Cumulative flow lets you catch problems in mid-process before they result in delayed delivery.
6. Value Delivered:
Here, project managers assign value to every requirement. This metric uses either dollars or a points system. Implementing features with high value should be the top priority. An upward trend in these metrics shows that things are on track. On the other hand, a downward trend isn’t a good sign. It means the implementation of lower-value features is going on. If that’s the case, the team should make amends. Sometimes, you might even have to stop product development.
Why it is powerful: This metric can paint a good picture of the progress for “Value” vs “Risks” associated with the product features and helps manage cost by taking an appropriate decision based on the metric.
7. Work Item Age:
Work item age is the aging work in progress. This metric indicates the time that passes between the start and completion of the current task. The use of work item age is to detect the timeline for unfinished tasks. By using this metric, you'll realize how your present tasks move forward. You can also compare your previous performance in the same context as the current scenario. The measurement tool, in this case, is the aging work-in-progress chart.
Why it is powerful: This metric can provide a clear timeline for unfinished tasks. This helps in forecasting the accurate completion time of the current task by comparing it to past performance for similar tasks.
Metrics are just one part of building a team's culture and keeping the team's performance in check. They give quantitative insight into the team's performance and provide measurable goals for the team. While they're important, don't get obsessed. Listening to the team's feedback during retrospectives is equally important in growing trust across the team, quality of the product, and development speed through the release process. Use both quantitative and qualitative feedback to drive change.