21 Agile Metrics: Why You Should Care & Tips to Make them Work
Agile Development
21 Agile Metrics: Why You Should Care & Tips to Make them Work
21 Agile Metrics: Why You Should Care & Tips to Make them Work
Agile Development

21 Agile Metrics: Why You Should Care & Tips to Make them Work

Companies left and right are leveraging the Agile approach for their business. In this regard, Agile metrics play an important role in keeping track of progress and ensuring that the implemented principles bring positive change in the software development life cycle (SDLC).  

These are a set of standardized measurements that help assess team productivity on different stages of the SDLC. Furthermore, the metrics in Agile software development are essential in monitoring product quality. A well-managed efficient team puts out high-quality software that fully meets the client requirements and does that in a timely manner. That is the essence of software development that brings client satisfaction and drives profits. 

Agile metrics and measurements help keep in check: 

  • Team performance.
  • Product quality.
  • Delivery time.
  • Dependencies, and more. 

Measuring the metrics in Agile is equally important to help the team be accountable for the work being done, keep the client informed, streamline the processes, and manage blockers and dependencies better, with the ultimate goal to deliver a high-quality product and maximize client satisfaction. 

Types of Agile Metrics  

We can distinguish three types of Agile metrics: 

  • Lean metrics – used to monitor and optimize processes in physical manufacturing of products (continuous quality, eliminate waste, etc.). 
  • Kanban metrics – these are Agile software development metrics to manage team performance and on-time delivery. 
  • Scrum metrics – most common to use in software development to measure performance and deliverables. 

Agile metrics may deal with completely different aspects of a project life cycle. That’s why it makes sense to group various metrics into categories:  

  • project management.
  • product quality.
  • team performance.
  • customer satisfaction.
  • Agile productivity metrics, and so on.  
Agile metrics types

Having some kind of structure makes it easier to collect and analyze the results, and subsequently, use these metrics to help promote better quality work and higher productivity for the team. 

The combination of metrics you will be measuring and processing depends on your objectives – what conclusions are you seeking to draw from your analysis? It’s important to understand the end goal to not only pick the right metrics to measure, but also make the best of the results of the analysis. Let’s look at some Agile metrics examples, and you decide what works best for you. 

Agile Project Management Metrics 

In project management, Agile metrics help keep track of how efficiently the team is managing the workload on the given project, team productivity and time management. Or, in simple words, how much work in what amount of time can be done to show tangible results. 

  • Cycle and Lead time are Lean metrics that help measure the speed of delivery. Lead time is from the moment the company receives an order to the time of delivery, including all the processing time. Cycle time improves on that metric and helps get a precise insight on the process as it includes the time from when the task is active to review. Teams with short cycle time are highly effective. Consistency is also important as it helps predict and plan out future work. 
  • Agile Velocity measures how much work a team is able to complete within a sprint on average. It is measured in hours or story points. Velocity tends to improve with time. This metric also shows how efficiently the team is able to work with the backlog. Tracking velocity helps understand when team performance starts suffering and take action in order to address any problems that may arise. 
  • Control chart shows the cycle time of a single task, meaning how much time passed from the moment the task was taken “in progress” to when it was “complete”. Short cycle time means a high throughput and consistency helps predict deliveries with precision. In the best-case scenario, the team strives to have short and consistent cycle time in every sprint. 
  • Throughput otherwise known as deployment frequency helps assess how many tasks can be processed in a specific time period, or story points per iteration. It shows team productivity and helps understand how it relates to business performance. This metric works best when combined with other metrics. 
  • Work In Progress (WIP) tracking helps keep in check delivery speed and keep the team’s focus on tasks that need to be completed before new ones can be started. This helps improve  delivery time and better manage dependencies. 
  • Work Item Age shows how much time a task spends in progress, from start to completion. It helps understand and analyze your performance on your tasks, how fast the work progresses. It’s measured using the aging work in progress chart. 
  • Flow Efficiency helps detect where the task is stuck and take measures to reduce waiting periods that may occur between different stages of a task. 
  • Blocked time accounts for blockers on tasks due to dependencies. If a team member cannot proceed with the task for some reason, a blocker is put on the task until it is resolved. 
  • Sprint Burndown Report measures the time and work left to complete a task during a sprint. It is presented in a simple chart showing time on X-axis and the work progress on Y-axis. The workload is estimated at the beginning of a sprint and is measured in hours or story points. The team works on completing the estimated workload by the end of the sprint. Similarly, Epic and Release Burndown metrics help track the progress of the team with the focus on the larger picture. Working with these metrics will be more complicated as there are many epics in a sprint and multiple versions of a product. 
  • Cumulative Flow Diagram shows the number of issues that the team is working on over time. It illustrates how consistent the workflow is across the team. Ideally, the flow should be smooth. Any ideations may indicate where bottlenecks are formed or that the team’s workflow capacity is higher than expected. Analyzing this data helps better manage workflow and eliminate bottlenecks. 
  • Value Delivery. Each requirement has an assigned value to it that is expressed in dollars or points system and determined by the project manager. High value features are top priority for the team in the development process. The team should work on delivering the most value to the client. Otherwise, the product won’t have the functionality that the end-user needs and makes use of. This not only has an adverse effect on client satisfaction but is a direct cause for a decrease in expected profits. 
  • Cost Estimation. To make it worthwhile for the client, the cost of production should be taken into consideration. This means, how the planned budget compares to costs actually spent. How it changes over time. Tracking this metric helps understand if the client is overspending, will he be able to make profit once the product is released. Generally, the cost of production decreases with each consecutive phase of the project, while the value added goes up. 

Agile Quality Metrics 

Frequently releasing products and hitting all the milestones won’t mean much if the quality of the product is lacking. That’s why it’s important to efficiently apply QA approaches with proper Agile metrics in mind for the project’s overall success. First and foremost, they help determine if the developed product is free of errors that may render it unusable or cause any disruptions in user experience. Agile development quality metrics help predict whether or not the client will derive satisfaction from the product. 

  • Code Coverage metric shows what percentage of the code is covered in unit tests. It is a good indicator of the team’s progress. However, it should be mentioned that high code coverage doesn’t equal high quality. Use a combination of metrics to reliably assess the quality of the software. 
  • Static and Dynamic Code Analysis lets you evaluate the quality of the source code with the difference being in whether or not you are running the software. Analyzing the code allows you to detect bugs and security soft spots, and build a product with clean code. This process can be partly or completely automated. Analyzing static code plays a major role in assuring code quality, however, dynamic code analysis shouldn’t be dismissed as it helps detect defects that appear when the software is running. 
  • Failed Deployments helps assess the overall number of deployments in relation to testing and production environments, the reliability of these environments. This metric is valuable in determining when the release is ready to go into production. 
  • Escaped Defects metrics help assess the quality of the product by stating the number of bugs in a build that is in production. Bugs, although inevitable, pose a risk if they are not addressed prior to release. 
  • Automated Test Coverage metric is similar to code coverage, however, its sole focus is on automation. The metric measures the percentage of code that is covered by automated tests. Test automation is important in providing continuous delivery and reducing time required for testing. 
  • Net Promoter Scores helps assess customer satisfaction and loyalty. It measures how willing the customer will be to recommend your service or product on a scale from -100 to 100. 

If you still hesitate whether or not you should spend time and efforts on applying all these metrics, read about the case on how implementing QA metrics and processes radically improved product quality for PLM Solutions and helped them get new clients.  

Agile Team Metrics 

Agile team metrics help monitor performance and see where Agile team structure and efficiency can be improved. Many of these overlap with Agile project metrics. Looking over the team’s wellbeing can also help in addressing issues when it comes to team morale and motivation. 

  • Agile Performance Metrics can be roughly narrowed down to productivity, quality, stability and predictability measurements, which, in turn, are expressed through some of the above-mentioned metrics, like escaped defect rate, planned-to-done ratio, cycle time, etc. All the metrics combined help assess the team performance and output, or to say it simply – Is the job done? Is it delivered on time? and, Is it any good? If the answer is “yes” to all the questions, the team is performing well. As already mentioned, many metrics tend to overlap and should be looked at in a broader context. This is especially the case with team performance, as product quality and delivery directly rely on the team output. 
  • Happiness Metric and Team Morale. There is no one certain way to measure team happiness or do it in an objective and unbiased way. What you can do is to ask the team members to rate their level of happiness on a scale from 1 to 5 and offer a few open questions regarding what they like or dislike about team dynamics, what could be done to improve the situation, and the like. Arguably, it could be more effective to measure team morale, as in how team members fit in the team, are they proud of the work they are doing, are they enthusiastic and motivated to come to work every morning, do they see a purpose in what they do. 

What makes the metrics work 

As you can tell, there is a lot to measure in a team’s work but this does not necessarily mean that all these numbers are required to help the team be successful. The general overview of Agile metrics touches upon all possible project and team composition specifics. Naturally, not all will apply to your case in particular. You only really need to track those metrics that apply to the team and project that you are working on. 

Having said that, once you know what to look for, metrics are easy to calculate and understand. It’s enough to set up the process once and keep up at it. But regular assessment and analysis of the collected data greatly accommodate the team’s work. And while some metrics may be hit or miss, there are some that will work for your benefit no matter the scope or industry. 

The annual State of Agile report delved into the question of what indicates that an Agile project is successful. Out of an extensive list, the actual value delivered to the client and customer satisfaction are the two Agile metrics most often cited by respondents, year after year. This makes all the sense, as the entire point of a commercial project is to drive profits and engage users that will like the product enough to stick with it for years to come. 

Сommonly used Agile metrics
Сommonly used Agile metrics in project management

Source: State of Agile

Once you know that you are building the right product, something that your customers will actually like and buy, you can focus on improving team performance in terms of quality, timely delivery and cost-efficiency. 

Here are a few more tips to help you leverage tracking metrics for Agile projects: 

  • Record context as well. Without context, metrics are nothing but a bunch of lifeless stats. As we work on real projects with real-life people, it’s understandable that there will always be a bigger picture behind the numbers. Inquire about the context that comes with the measured results and draw your conclusion from that. 
  • Use metrics in tandem. One isolated measurement doesn’t show the full picture. That’s why it makes sense to observe metrics and how they behave in tandem with one another. You may notice how metrics correlate and work together, what combination of factors may apply to change in team performance or product quality. 
  • Cause-effect bias. It’s also important to remember that correlation does not imply causation. So, stay critical in your analysis, don’t jump to rushed conclusions, and understand what you are looking at. 

To conclude 

When implementing a new Agile way of working, it’s wise to try and be meticulous in what changes you are introducing into your work processes and how they affect the team and the quality of their output. That is the purpose of Agile metrics, whether these are Agile performance metrics, project management and quality, or even team happiness. All that can be measured and analyzed, brings orderliness and regularity into your day-to-day work, ultimately reducing chaos. Plan for future successes step by step, know that you have it under control, and use the advantages of being an Agile organization to the fullest. However, if you are still in the early stages of adopting the ways of Agile and feel overwhelmed, don’t hesitate to seek some guidance. Professional consulting of our SAFe certified experts can help you implement Agile in your team and set up the processes for metrics analysis in your business practices to make it work for you. 

Olesia Prots
About the Author

Olesia Prots

Delivery Centre Director and Head of Lean-Agile Center of Excellence
With nearly 10 years of versatile experience in the IT industry, Olesia possesses a comprehensive skill set that includes Project and Change Management, Business Analysis, coaching, and effective communication. Her dynamic approach and commitment to excellence make her a valuable asset Symphony Solutions.
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