Agile metrics are the quantifiable measures to determine the parameters around the agile project including the quality of work, productivity, progress and level of success of the project and the performance and well being of the Agile team.
“Great companies are almost always run by great management teams. And great management teams know that the only way to improve a process is to start by measuring it.” – David Skok
Agile metrics impart the benefit of measurability to software development efforts. It helps the key stakeholders to identify the areas of strength and weakness and resolve possible bottlenecks within the project. It also leads to higher predictability in regards to the timelines while placing an emphasis on quality of the product developed.
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Choosing The Agile Metrics To Track
Productivity and quality are two driving forces of Agile methodology. Tracking multiple metrics becomes counterproductive. Companies need to select the key metrics to track and incorporate within their business.
The metrics you choose should allow you to monitor the progress of your project without acting as a detractor for the project itself.
Here are some things you need to consider before deciding on the metrics for your project to track.
1. Agile metrics should work together with other metrics to provide a balanced picture.
Working alone, Agile metrics may provide skewed insights as a result of tunnel vision. It is necessary that the metrics you choose should be accompanied by supplementary metrics that provide a more wholesome picture and a balanced project outlook.
2. Metrics should be used by the members of the Agile team and not outsiders.
The metrics are primarily meant for the Agile team. They should be the one collecting, using and sharing the metrics. Use of these metrics by the members of the management team acts counterproductive.
3. Agile metrics should serve as conversation starters.
The metrics should be put to use within the conversations among the team members. It needs to act as a starting point of discussions during sprint planning. The agile team also needs to have a clear strategy regarding what it plans to do with the numbers collected and how the metrics would impact the future of the software project.
Key Metrics To Track Within Your Agile Team
The metrics that you pick should be a combination of project related agile metrics as well as business metrics to give you a comprehensive view of the progress your team is making. Here is a list of metrics that you need to keep track of in your software development project.
1. Sprint Burndown
The burndown chart is a graphical representation of the estimated scrum tasks as compared to the actual tasks completed. Before commencing a sprint, the team makes estimates in regards to the story points they estimate can be completed by them. The amount of work left to do is plotted against time for the duration of the sprint.
The output in terms of hours, story point or backlogs remaining can be calculated which allows you to track the real-time progress of the sprint. It also lets the team make estimates regarding when the work will be completed. It also gives you insights into the actual productivity of your agile team at the end of the sprint.
2. Lead Time
The lead time consists of the time between the story enters the system till the time the sprint ends and the release is due. Low lead time is indicative of a more efficient process. Since it comprises of the time between initiation and delivery of a work item, lead time gives you an end-to-end insight of the entire agile system.
Lead time is the time duration between the receipt of the requirement and its delivery. This includes the cycle time as well which is the time duration between the actual beginning of the development process and the delivery. The requirements can be focused around a specific feature to be incorporated, a bug that needs resolution or completion of a user story.
Lead time and cycle time are popular lean and kanban metrics which not only help with the identification of potential bottlenecks within the process, they also provide the stakeholders and clients vital insights regarding the estimated speed of development.
Lower the lead time, faster the requirement moves from the backlog to development phase and lowers the cycle time, faster is the actual development speed.
3. Cumulative Flow Diagram
Cumulative flow is an important kanban metric for ensuring a consistent flow of work across the team. The diagram visually points out the inconsistencies within the project by giving a bird’s eye view of all the tasks present in various stages of the workflow.
The stories and the various story points are plotted in the vertical axis while the horizontal axis depicts time. Different colors are used to depict the stages the stories are in- completed, in review, in backlog or in progress.
The visual clarity that the cumulative flow diagram gives to the viewer is its biggest benefit and is what makes it such a powerful metric. Bottlenecks at any stage are immediately visualized and the work in progress is easily tracked.
The problems can be tracked on a real-time basis during the process. This means that you don’t need to wait for the retrospective meeting to discover the problem and come up with corrective solutions. The problem resolution takes place in an immediate manner.
4. Sprint Velocity
Velocity is a measure of the amount of work the development team is able to perform in a given period of time. It is basically the rate at which the statements in the requirements documentation are converted into lines of code. The number of story points completed over the past few sprints gives you the sprint velocity which can be used as a predictor for the value that would be delivered in the upcoming sprints as well.
Velocity acts as an important benchmark metric for the team to make estimates about the amount of work that can be done keeping in mind the average velocity over the past few sprints. This helps for the planning activities for the future sprints.
While velocity is an important metric, it cannot be used as a measure of competence or performance of the agile team. It also cannot be used as a standalone metric because while it is a result oriented matrix that measures the quantitative output, it gives no insight in regards to the quality of development. The above mentioned quantitative metrics have to be used in conjugation with qualitative metrics mentioned below.
5. Failed Deployments
Failed deployments or unsuccessful deployments are the amount deployments that fail to take place over a given period of time. This can be calculated over a week or a month depending on the frequency of your releases.
It can measure the failure of deployment either to the testing environment or the production environments or both. Unsuccessful deployment is an important quality metric that shows how reliable the testing and production environments are and whether the software being built meets the quality standards expected.
Ideally, failed deployments within the project should be zero or as close to zero as possible to ensure that your agile team is building a working software.
6. Code Coverage
Code coverage also called as test coverage gives you the much-needed perspective on the amount of untested code in your codebase. While it isn’t a measure of how good your tests actually are, it gives a raw visualization of the code that is covered by unit tests.
The problem with code coverage is that it is possible for developers to put in useless tests in an attempt to game the system and score higher on code coverage. Nevertheless, code coverage is an important agile metric to track as it serves as a beginning of important conversations centered around code reviews leading to an improved perspective on project progress.
It is important to note that code coverage solely focuses on unit testing. Other testing methodologies like integration testing and UI testing are not covered. It is nonetheless an important metric for fulfilment of the continuous delivery principle in the agile methodology.
7. Net Promoter Score
NPS is a business metric that depicts the likeliness of your customers to refer you to their contacts. Customer research and collection of feedback are important factors in the calculation of the Net promoter score.
The customers are asked for feedback on their willingness to refer you to others on a 10 point scale. The survey responses are collected and analysed. Depending on whether they would promote the product, advise against it, or take no action, the customers are group as promoters (score of 9-10), passives (score 7-8) and detractors (score below 6).
The final net promoter score is the percentage of detractors subtracted from the percentage of promoters which is a strong predictor of business success and customer satisfaction. A positive net promoter score is a clear indicator of success while a net negative score indicates that there is something wrong with the process and needs improvement.
Keeping track of the agile metrics is beneficial to the business as well as the team but choosing the right metrics to track is of vital importance. You need a balanced overview in order to be able to make decisions that work in favor of the project while boosting the efficiency of your agile development team.
As Albert Einstein once quoted, “Not everything that counts can be counted and not everything that can be counted, counts”
Most importantly, it’s not the numbers that matter, it’s how you apply these numbers in order to boost the efficiency of the project that matters at the end of the day.