Skip to main content

Agile Metrics Can Help Measure Improvement

By its nature, Agile doesn’t have any defined measurements or metrics. However, there are numerous proposed metrics that teams can adopt from other Agile professionals. These range from ones measuring bygone performances to ones that will provide insight about how a particular change has turned out in reality.

Although there are plenty of metrics methods available, more often than not they end up being a target (see Goodhart’s Law and Campbell's Law ), or even worse, are gamed (see The Observer Effect). Essentially, the team needs to keep in mind that the measure serves its purpose, and not the other way round.

So, what are the characteristics of a good Agile metric or a measurement?

The metric should not focus on a number or a target (e.g., velocity, bugs logged, etc.), but focus on a continuous improvement. The intent should be to gather data that can be analyzed further to derive improvements, rather than making the data increment the target.

Below are some ideas to monitor your Agile growth.

  • Telemetry: Do sensible monitoring. Identify dependencies and the path of failures from previous experiences, and give more continuous feedback about the work being done. This could be an input to Kaizen, so that there is a continuous experimentation and learning mind-set built in to the team, which can take them to greater heights. See The Three Ways of DevOps, specifically the third way.
  • Lead time & cycle time: The metrics from Lean fundamentals measure the time from ideation to actual deployment and start of execution. These are powerful metrics and can help the team realize how fast they are delivering value and seek feedback on it. A simple report measuring them can be generated from any Agile SDLC tool at any backlog item level required. Devising a way to improve these metrics can go a long way in improving the team.
  • Dashboard reporting: Visual reporting is another powerful way of presenting measurements using data exploration and transformation (Chartio is one tool for this) and Metric translation (e.g., Sensu). Using them the right way can also help uncover measurements that will help the team improve.
  • Trend charts: Measure the trends of work units resolved over time. Velocity trends, customer bug trends, bug resolution trends… these all help us judge whether we are accelerating or deteriorating as a team, and help us create suitable measurements that will help us accelerate.
  • Self-assessments and surveys: Agile surveys that measure the team’s understanding of the work they are doing, as well as checking the backlog and the project’s quality of health, can be useful when measuring the team’s overall improvement.

It’s important to remember that no one metric will suit you the best at all times. You will probably find one method more impactful at a particular time than the other, and vice versa. Keep in mind the Deming’s cycle Plan-Do-Check-Act, and choose the appropriate improvement measurements for you.

About the author

An enthusiastic learner, Manju comes with rich experience playing the role of Scrum Master for multiple teams for the past 5+ years. He uses his learnings to help teams adopt Agile and Scrum appropriately and drives continuous improvement. Manju has experience in multiple roles, including Java Developer and Program Manager, before he chose to be a full time “Agilist”.

A Certified Scrum Master from Scrum Alliance, Manju has been a participant in regional Scrum seminars and gatherings in India. Manju holds a Bachelor of Engineering from Visvesvaraya technological university, Karnataka. He enjoys reading biographies, history, and about different cultures.

Manju’s keen interest to learn coupled with a passion to bring about a change for the better, makes him a valuable member of the Pega Agile community.