Gathering metrics for your agile team will help them find opportunities for improvement in both the product and themselves.
“Mathematically speaking, when you know almost nothing, almost anything will tell you something” – Douglas W.Hubbard “How to measure anything.”
Data helps us make decisions, which is valuable. While unused data provides negative value when you account for the cost of collection.
Some questions and decisions agile teams need to ask are:
- Is the product of sufficient quality?
- How can the team be more productive?
- Is the team responding to market/customer needs frequently?
- What do our customers think of the product?
- How much value has been delivered?
- How engaged and motivated are the team?
With any metrics, it’s hard to measure something and then distill it down to a trivial red-amber-green ‘traffic light’ category. Often the data needs to be interpreted. The emphasis of agile metrics should be to aid empiricism and decision making rather than to simplify reporting.
Since agile frameworks such as Scrum and SAFe require self-organizing teams to manage complexity, the agile teams must use this information for self-regulation. Misuse by management in the form of carrot and stick motivation is inadvisable.
“Continuous attention to technical excellence and good design enhances agility.” - Principles behind the Agile Manifesto
There isn’t a single best software quality metric. However, as a minimum, teams need to know about their defect count and how much testing they perform. Cyclomatic complexity and SQALE will enable the agile team to assess how maintainable the code is.
- Defect Density
- Test Coverage
- Cyclomatic complexity
Productivity can be best improved by eliminating low-value activities. The great thing is that low-value activities are chores, no one likes doing them, so removing them is a win-win. The feature ratio is a comparison between value-producing activities (i.e. building features) and non-value producing activities (such as fixing bugs) is a great indicator.
- Feature Ratio
“Deliver working software frequently, from a couple of weeks to a couple of months, with a preference to the shorter timescale.” - Principles behind the Agile Manifesto
Agility gives teams and organizations the ability to respond to change and to engage stakeholders and customers frequently to reduce the risk of building a product that isn’t fit for purpose. The time from when a customer requests an item to when they get it is your lead time. Cycle time tells you how long something takes once it enters “in Progress.”
- Cycle time
- Lead time
Distinguishing between the time when an item is marked as done by the development team and when it was shipped will indicate waste in the form of excess inventory. A cumulative flow diagram covering the entire value stream will help visualize this.
- Cumulative Flow
Success arises through delivering a product to customers that aid them in solving an unmet need. When this happens, customers tend to be satisfied. When the solution is hard to use or doesn’t solve their problem, then they are dissatisfied. Obtain customer feedback through surveys such as Net promoter score or directly solicited through interviews. If you’re unable to survey the entire userbase, then random samples can be an effective alternative.
- Net promoter score
“The Product Owner is responsible for maximizing the value of the product” – The scrum guide
All products require investment. For your investors to continue to fund the product, they usually expect some sort of return. Investors don’t care how much stuff you’ve delivered, such as lines of code or story points. They care about value, and that usually has a $ in front of it. Product Owners must be able to articulate the return on investment to fulfill their accountabilities.
- Feature Cost – The cost of building a feature
- Feature Benefits – What are the hard and soft benefits of the feature
- Return on Investment – The benefit divided by the cost to determine if the investment is worthwhile.
Motivation and Engagement
“Build projects around motivated individuals. Give them the environment and support they need and trust them to get the job done.” - Principles behind the Agile Manifesto
Lack of engagement and motivation of the agile team is a canary in the coal mine for project failure, while engaged, motivated teams build the best products. Engagement data can be gathered either in a survey or in a workshop.
Suggested questions from Buckingham and Goodall are:
- I am really enthusiastic about the mission of my company.
- At work, I clearly understand what is expected of me.
- In my team, I am surrounded by people who share my values.
- I have the chance to use my strengths every day at work.
- My teammates have my back.
- I know I will be recognized for my excellent work.
- I have great confidence in my company’s future.
- In my work, I am always challenged to grow.
- Download our useful factsheets on all things agile
Recommended Training courses
- Learn more about agile metrics in our SAFe® Scrum Master course