Agile Metrics for Successful Project Management

Introduction to Agile Metrics:

Agile Metrics is an imperative element of managing and measuring the agile software development process. It monitors work quality across workflow stages, assess productivity, test performance, determine the well-being of the software, and introduce clarity to the development process. Agile metrics measures what is important for your business, and your clients. Value delivered to the customers is the key focus instead of concentrating on what and how much we are working towards software development.

Importance of Agile Metrics:

  • Measure the effort
  • Should be simple and meaningful
  • High utility and easy to collect
  • Visualize the effect
  • Channelize the output
  • Mitigate waste
  • Identify opportunities for improvement
  • Tracking work in progress (WIP)
  • Expose the loopholes at the initial stages
  • Add value to the business
  • Metrics should be easy to understand and implement
  • Estimate the scope of work
  • Draw a clear picture of what works and what doesn’t
  • Should help to plan the sprint and release
  • Separate the qualitative and quantitative metrics

Three main types of Agile Metrics:

  1. Lean Metrics: The measures used to control, streamline, and monitor the manufacturing processes of the physical products. It aims to ensure the flow of value from the organizational level to the actual customers and in order to achieve this; you may need to eliminate redundant activities. Lean Metrics identify the opportunities for improvement and facilitate ongoing quality improvement. To remove the superfluous activities we should pinpoint the magnitude of waste, plus how it causes variation from customer satisfaction. E.g., Lead time and Cycle time.
  • Scrum Metrics: A common metric used in software development, the concept of time helps to structure and estimate work. Each small sprint contains deliverables, increases control over the process; the customers and team both have a clear idea of development stages. E.g. Burndown chart and Team Velocity. Scrum Metrics assists in building a team through experiences, self-organization, and finding effective methods to solve issues. Agile Metrics gives clear view of progress, historic review of value delivered so far, project timeliness and delays, the capacity of your team and its utilization or the escaped defects that cost productivity.
  • Kanban Metrics: It focuses on workflow, organizes work, prioritizes it in order to track, and monitor to make the process efficient. It requires real-time communication and helps maintain transparency of work shared across the Kanban board for easy status updates. E.g. Cumulative flow and Throughput

Challenges to Agile Metrics:

  • What to measure?
  • What do you want to improve?
  • What is the expected outcome?
  • What are you committed to delivering?
  • Will the team use the defined metrics?
  • Have you planned the metrics?
  • Are people involved in selecting metrics or it is just an experiment?
  • What are the other metrics combined for use?
  • How will the team use the metrics?
  • Are these metrics necessary and resourceful?
  • Are the metrics easy to understand and calculate?
  • Do the metrics provide good and usable insights?
  • Do the metrics answer your business queries?
  • Your focus is on timely delivery or productivity.

Detailed Explanation of Agile Metrics:

Lean Metrics

Lead Time: The total time between the product requests to actual delivery is lead time. It measures the duration from the commencement to the end, including the process and queue time. It considers all the processes that take the product to be complete, planning, release, fixing bugs. It provides exact calculations of time taken in each process. Tracking lead time metrics lets you verify the impact of changes you make in the process; whether you were able to deliver faster, check the value you delivered to the customers and improve on various factors. It increases the predictability of task completion in a given time frame. Total lead time is the time taken by the product in each phase.

Cycle Time: It measures the time taken in completing the first stage to second or between any two stages. It can be the development cycle, deployment cycle or any other calculations that help to create measurable. Cycle time can improve the capabilities of your software development team as you can track the time consumed between two points of the product cycle. It adds to the team’s flexibility to handle the complexities and fix them in time. The insights received from the cycle time allow managing the workflow and increases efficiency. The precise amount of time taken for delivering a particular task. Low cycle time clearly states higher productivity. Cycle time gives a futuristic view of deliverables.

Scrum Metrics:

Burndown Chart: This chart represents the progress within a sprint, achievements, pending tasks, forecasts, time remaining to complete a planned task, daily scheduling, etc. Before starting the sprint team decides on the story points they can complete in a sprint period say a week. Accordingly, crosscheck the planned work with the set time frame. Sprint burndown chart in a way ensures that the team finishes the task as planned. This Agile Metrics is effective as it allows you to track the progress of the sprint in real-time. It instantly clears the picture of what has been delivered so far and if there are any residues. In short, you know whether you can just meet ends or deliver promisingly.

Team Velocity: It is a measure of story points completion by the team in the last few sprints also gives obviousness of the team’s capability to cover the points in forthcoming sprints. Velocity captures the team’s progress and team velocity is an essential metric in agile software development for powerful planning. It is easy to measure, shows clear results and higher the velocity lesser the inefficiencies of completing the sprint. It charts the actual value delivered to the customers. The challenge is multiple factors that affect the team’s performance. This Agile Metrics is useful for comparing the velocity of the sprints not for comparing the teams.

Kanban Metrics:

Cumulative Flow: This kanban metric demonstrates the status within a sprint/ release/ team. It gives you a view of all statuses like work in progress, indicative problems, bottlenecks that are likely to crop up and this Agile Metrics gives a detailed view of the sprint, release, and software teams involved. This metric enables a view of all statuses and workflow stages in a single chart. The visual simplicity makes cumulative flow popular metrics. Finding immediate solutions for the identified issues can let you deliver better and avoid delayed delivery. Velocity per sprint is an average of story points covered in the number of sprints.

Throughput: It measures the tasks processed in the time frame, to measure the team’s productivity. With throughput, you can understand the effect of workflow on your business performance and indicates team’s capacity by measuring the total amount of work completed in a specific time. It counts only completed tasks, not the WIP. This Kanban metric is a tool that helps accurate forecasts of deliverables in upcoming releases. The chart depends on tracking the team performance measured by frequency of achieved throughput and overall performance in the given span. The throughput if is same or increasing symbolizes the high caliber of team to deliver else needs attention. Thus, throughput is the average number of units processed in a unit of time like a day or week. It is effective when combined with other metrics especially to know the trend other than that throughput can give short term predictions. The number of stories finished in a sprint, it is easier to measure if the stories are shorter. The throughput rate is the flow rate of units completing the process.

Synopsis:

The impact of Agile Metrics should be clearly visible to the customers and directly benefit them. Use it as a Key Performance Indicator (KPI) yet maintaining the flexibility using chosen metrics. Ultimately, Agile Metrics gives you Agile Productivity; it indicates how well the team performs on selective metrics.

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