Generally speaking, metrics refer to standards that are used for measuring something. Specific to agility, metrics are standards which enable a team to gauge the productivity of teams across sprints. Without proper metrics, it is just about impossible to measure the progress of an agile project. Also, these metrics enable you to accurately access the quality of the software product that is developed.
Pertaining to a team’s productivity, the agile metrics help you understand any issues with processes that may be pulling the team back from hitting the highest performance. For example, velocity metrics will give you a clear data-backed measurement of how productive a team is. If a team falls short in this regard, you could easily find that out using the velocity metrics.
Why are agile metrics important?
Agility works on the principle of continuous improvement or CI. However, continuous improvement cannot be forced upon a team. The different elements of continuous improvement should be embraced by the entire team. For example, you can consider self-improvement which is one element of CI. If a team doesn’t commit to the notion of relentless self-improvement, continuous improvement is impossible.
It is generally observed that teams committed to self-improvement generate better quality results compared to others. However, sustaining self-improvement in a meaningful manner is not easy. More than anything else, you need to have metrics to gauge if the improvement in question is linear and fruitful. Put this way, these metrics have a direct effect on the idea of continuous improvement on which the entire concept of agility rests.
But continuous improvement is not the sole objective of agility. You may even argue that it’s not the sole objective of the process. Agility should also deliver a quality software product as its end result. The best teams always manage to strike a balance between these two components. Without accurate metrics, you wouldn’t be able to measure either of these elements. These metrics help teams manage themselves better, and also deliver value at periodic intervals.
Which are the most important agile metrics?
There are quite a few agile metrics which give you insights about various elements of a project under progress. But some of these metrics are more important than others while some can be considered essential. Let’s look at the ones that would be most important for your project development.
Code coverage is a metric that gives you the total percentage of code generated in a project that is covered in testing. You could use this metric for each build of the software. This helps you give some idea of how a sprint is progressing. After all, the more percentage of code that is tested, the closer you are to the end of a sprint. However, the quality of the code is not the only thing that’s measured in testing. Code coverage doesn’t cover any of the other tests. This means that even if code coverage is high, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the overall quality of the software is high.
Sprint Burndown Report
In agile projects, the fundamental units are the scrum teams. The scrum teams arrange their work processes in such a way that they all work toward the successful completion of a sprint. A sprint is a time-bound set of activities which is designed to produce a specific result (often, the addition of new features in software). Given how a given sprint needs to be finished within a certain period of time, it’s imperative to track the progress of tasks in a sprint periodically.
This is where a sprint burndown report becomes important.
It’s a report that is used to track how the various tasks in a sprint are progressing. The amount of time left to finish the sprint and the volume of work remaining to be finished are two crucial parameters that are measured in this context. In the report, the remaining time would be marked on the X-axis. Meanwhile, you will find the amount of work that’s left to be done on the Y-axis. Typically, time is measured in either hour or in terms of the story points to be finished. At the start of every sprint, the workload is forecasted by the team’s managers. The objective then is to finish the entire workload before the sprint is over.
As the name implies, quality intelligence is a metric that helps you gauge the quality of software that is developed in an agile process. In fact, you could say it is the best metric for measuring the product’s quality. Among other things, it helps you identify changes that have been made in the code in the recent past. Sometimes, when new, untested, lines of code are added the overall quality of the software may go down. If that’s the case, then Quality Intelligence will alert you towards the same. It gives you a clear idea of when your team should focus more on testing.
Velocity refers to the average volume of work that a team performs in a sprint. The prevision with which one can forecast the velocity of a team is dependent on how many iterations are performed. Generally, the more the number of iterations, the higher the level of accuracy of the forecast. As in sprint burndown reports, in velocity reports too, time is measured either in hours or using story points as the basis.
Velocity also helps you figure out to what degree a team could finish the tasks in their backlogs. Velocity only increases as time moves along. To make sure that the team’s performance remains consistent across the sprints, tracking velocity is imperative. Simply put, if there is a dip in velocity, it means that something is awry.
Epic and Release burndown
Despite the presence of the word ‘burndown’ in both, epic and release breakdown is quite different from a sprint burndown. A sprint burndown is focused on tracking how an individual sprint progresses. A sprint can have multiple epics and work versions. And it is crucial to track the progress of these. Much as the whole team should be aware of how a sprint is progressing, they should also know the workflow in the epic and version. This is made possible with the Epic and Release burndown charts.
Though the ideal in software development is a completely bug-free piece of code, that remains but that- an ideal. The ground reality is that every team must contend with bugs and errors in the software that they have developed. Escaped defects are a metric which helps you identify the bugs in the software that is being produced. This helps you gauge the quality of the software. Essentially, the lesser the number of bugs, the higher the quality of the software. Once you identify the bugs using escaped defects, you could take adequate measures to solve them.
Control charts are concerned with the time that the teams take to solve a particular problem. Essentially, these charts mark the time duration that a task takes to transition from the “in progress” to “complete” status. Generally, teams that maintain similar cycle times across tasks provide deliveries at predictable times. Also, those teams which generally have shorter cycle times are able to finish more tasks during the course of a sprint. Measuring cycle times helps teams figure out if they are delivering at a reasonable pace or not. And when you introduce any changes in the way the teams function, if you note an increase in cycle times, that’s probably a sign of the newly introduced changes not working out as you hoped. Ideally, the cycle times should be both consistent and short. Control charts record the cycle times in an agile project. It helps you estimate if a team could perform their future tasks within a given time period or not.
Work item age
Work item age refers to the amount of time which passes between the beginning and the end of a specific time. The longer the work item age, the more ‘aged’ the task is considered to be. It’s a handy metric to identify the tasks that are taking unusually long to finish. You can also use it to understand how the current tasks are progressing. You can compare the average work item age in the previous sprints or projects with the current one and get an idea of how well the current iteration is progressing. The tool in agility which gives you the work item age for different tasks is a chart called the ageing work in progress chart.
Cumulative flow diagram
The cumulative flow diagram or CFD is a representation tool that is used in agile projects to ensure that the workflow remains consistent throughout the team. On the CFD, the amount of time taken by the team to perform tasks is represented on the X-axis. The number of issues that need to be tackled by the team, meanwhile, is marked on the Y-axis. If the workflow is ideal, the cumulative flow diagram would run without many deviations from left to right.
The workflow capacity is represented in bands.
If the band is wide at any point, it indicates that the workflow capacity is more than what’s needed to meet the requirement. If this is the case, you could allocate the capacity elsewhere and flatten the workflow. The CFD will give you a visual representation of where the workflow needs to be flattened. This will help you hasten the workflow by allocating capacity appropriately.
The CFD is also an excellent tool in helping you recognize the bottlenecks in the workflow. It could also help you figure out the reasons why the bottlenecks occurred. This will help you take the appropriate measures to solve them.
Lead time refers to the time period from when a request is raised to deliver a product to when the required product is delivered. Every step that the team takes to finish product development is factored in while calculating team time. So is the time that would take time to solve bugs in the program code while developing a software product. Since it provides an accurate measure of the time that every process involved in the product’s development takes, it is one of the most useful metrics in understanding if a project is proceeding as planned or not.
Failed deployments are yet another metric that helps you measure the quality of the software that is developed in an agile process. It’s an excellent metric when it comes to judging how reliable and predictable the production ecosystem is. It also helps you measure the overall health of the testing environment. The metric also comes in handy when you need to determine just when a sprint is fit to move into production.
Throughput refers to the average number of tasks which is finished in a given unit of time. It could also be counted in terms of the number of story points that are finished in an iteration. In the simplest terms, throughput refers to the productivity of the team. It gives you a clear picture of how workflow directly affects the team’s performance. This also helps you gain an understanding of the capacity that your team has to finish tasks, in relation to the volume of requirements that come in. One thing that it doesn’t show is when exactly a task begins being processed.
In this metric, project managers give value to each requirement that comes in. The higher the value assigned to a requirement, the more important it is seen to be for the project. You could represent values either in dollars or points. Once you have assigned values appropriately, the highest priority should be to implement those features with the highest values. Once the project progresses, if this metric reflects an upward trend, it means that the right requirements are executed in a timely manner. A downward trend, on the other hand, means things are not proceeding as well as they should be, and you may need to take the necessary measures to put things in order. A downward trend means that you have prioritized implementing features with lower values.
Net Promoter Score
Net Promoter Score is a metric which helps you quantify how well a customer is likely to recommend the product you have developed to others. Typically, the net promoter score ranges from 0 to 100. As you undoubtedly know, customer loyalty is a crucial element in determining how successful a firm is. Net Promoter Score provides a useful way to measure customer loyalty.
Blocked time is the metric that informs you that a task has been presently ‘blocked’ from being performed due to some dependency. Once the dependency is done, you could shift the card that has been blocked to the other side of the board. To complete the tasks in progress at the earliest, you should resolve the blockers at the earliest.
As you have seen, there are different types of metrics that are used in agile projects to enable efficient project management. While the purpose of the individual metrics may differ from one another, all such metrics are meant for one purpose- which is to ensure that the project proceeds smoothly, delivering a quality product at the end.
However, while these metrics remain useful in managing agile projects, it’s hard to make use of them unless you have the right project management software. As you may have noticed, most if not all of the metrics that we discussed here are dependent on the transparency of the project’s progress. Put another way, if the project management software that you use doesn’t help you track the tasks in progress efficiently, it becomes hard to capture many of the metrics with integrity.
This is one reason why I’m Productive is an important project management software for agile projects. For one thing, you could track the progress of tasks in multiple views according to the requirements of a team. You could assign tasks to different members of the team and tweak the settings so that the relevant team members can all view the progress of tasks. You can follow the progress of a task from the production to the review and delivery stage so that you could easily see the time that it spends on each phase. In fact, the platform comes with in-built mechanisms to capture certain crucial metrics. For instance, I’m Productive accurately captures the amount of time that each team member spends on a task. This, it does while ignoring irrelevant data like the amount of time they spent on breaks while performing a task- something that not many similar tools in the market are smart enough to do.
Aside from helping you capture such important metrics; the tool also lets you easily re-assign a task if it has been found to be finished improperly and needs to be performed again. This is also useful when any new requirements have come in during the development process and so the task needs to be redefined as a result. Another possible use of the feature is when you need to push a task into a new sprint or iteration.
Aside from capturing accurate metrics and ensuring smooth progress of tasks, another key element in ensuring hassle-free progress of a project is efficient collaboration amongst the team members. I’m Productive brings you a plethora of useful tools to help you with the same. For instance, you could comment on a task to provide instant feedback. Also, you have the provision to send a group message or message a team member in private. You could also share documents and other information that team members could refer to carry out their tasks. Such assets, you could share in a central repository of sorts from which all team members could access them whenever they want to.
But perhaps, from a project management perspective, the most unique feature that the platform brings is the one by which you could accurately predict the project delivery time. The underlying calculations for this are done by a powerful AI that is embedded in the system. You could get the estimate with just a click of a button.
These are only some of the features that make I’m Productive useful for agile and other types of projects. Read their website to learn more.
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