agile metrics
Guide

Agile Metrics: What To Measure and Why
They’re Important

what are agile metrics
At a Glance
Table of contents

An introduction to Agile metrics

Agile metrics are an integral part of embedding the Agile framework for project management into your team’s work. While the methodology is rooted in software development, it has now become a staple across IT, marketing departments, and creative agencies as a way to ramp up efficiency.

Scrum and Kanban — two of the most popular Agile frameworks — have revolutionized how businesses run their everyday operations.

Agile’s impact on a company’s bottom line is impressive: huge decreases in costs, faster time to market, and better team chemistry.

In order to effectively apply Agile in your business, however, you need to know how to measure success.

Agile metrics help you keep a realistic and data-based overview of progress, so that you can ensure higher productivity, better quality, and improved customer satisfaction for each of your company’s projects.

What are Agile metrics?

In a nutshell, Agile metrics are the standards that you set and use in order to measure the work of your team. They can also be referred to as Agile KPIs (key performance indicators). Agile metrics are not about measuring the amount of work or the actual tasks performed, but how much you were able to impact the end user.

Agile metrics and measurements can cover different aspects, such as productivity, quality, and team health. This means you might encounter terms such as Agile productivity metrics, Agile quality metrics, and Agile team metrics, among others.

Agile was originally used in software development teams so the metrics mostly corresponded to the specifics of their work.

Today, the framework is applied to many types of businesses. Thus, the Agile metrics can be diverse, matching the various workflows, yet following the same basic principles.

Agile project managers are typically responsible for establishing and tracking the metrics in conjunction with the project roadmap — which is agreed upon together with the team and relevant stakeholders.

importance of agile metrics
The Pros of Measurement

Why are Agile metrics important?

The purpose of Agile metrics is to help leaders and project managers direct teams toward continuous improvement on the basis of real-life data from previous work cycles.

Continuous improvement of the team and their work is based on the personal motivation for self-improvement, which is then built upon with common improvement efforts.

Here are a few benefits of tracking Agile metrics:

  • Get a realistic snapshot of work in progress and completed projects
  • Nurture self-management in team members
  • Foster continuous improvement for the team
  • Help teams focus their work on delivering value to end users
  • Speed up delivery time for products and projects
  • Promote openness, transparency, and creativity

The importance of Agile metrics is multifaceted.

They cover the actual performance of teams, but also dig deeper into the company environment, principles of management, as well as individual motivation and work habits.

Overall, Agile performance metrics help you and your team move away from micromanagement, doing work just for the sake of completing tasks, and the lack of focus in project development.

Instead, they promote a bold step towards increased and meaningful productivity, higher value for customers, and better team dynamics.

Accurate and effective measurement is also necessary for compiling Agile metrics for senior executives. This way, they can be kept up-to-date with the team and project progress. Agile metrics can be used to create reports for all relevant stakeholders.


The main types of Agile metrics and what makes them effective

Each methodology within the Agile framework typically adopts a different set of metrics for measuring quality and productivity. Some of the most common types include Kanban metrics, Scrum metrics, and Lean metrics, among others.

Kanban

In Kanban, the cumulative flow is a central metric, as the methodology prioritizes a good workflow and solid organization.

Scrum

In Scrum, team velocity and the burndown chart are the most important metrics, since the focus is on the rapid and predictable delivery of products to end users.

Lean

Lead and cycle time are some of the essential metrics in Lean, as the flow of value to end users is underlined.

When creating your Agile metrics dashboard, it is crucial to think about the efficiency and quality of each measurement.

You need metrics that are important to your team members, specific, simple enough, and applicable to the project that’s being developed.

Some of the principles worth following in setting the Agile metrics for your team include:

  • Each metric should be specific to the project and should give meaningful information to team members and project managers
  • Team members should understand the value of measuring each metric, so they can use them with a real purpose and apply them in their self-improvement efforts
  • Metrics should be considered in conjunction with one another, and not as standalone indicators
  • The measurement process should be followed by discussions and actual steps towards continuous improvement
  • Download a copy of this checklist

This list is not exhaustive, but it should give you an idea of what to look for in a good Agile KPI.


The 10 top Agile metrics that matter

So what are the most used and practical Agile project metrics? Here are the top 10 measurements to boost your efforts.

Sprint burndown

The Sprint burndown chart is a visual way to track the progress made on tasks during a Sprint. It shows the amount of work that your team has burned through from the predefined set of goals for that Sprint. The X-axis indicates time, while the Y-axis illustrates the remaining work. With the Sprint burndown report, you can get a clear overview of the rate and amount of progress made at any given point during the Sprint. As a project manager, this gives you key information about time needed for completion of the agreed workload.

sprint burndown chart

Velocity

Velocity is a key Agile metric that measures how much work was completed by your team during a fixed period of time. Most often, this is one Sprint. The typical unit of measurement is story points completed. With every iteration, the accuracy of the predictions grows because they’re made on the basis of the past velocity. This metric is strictly team-specific and varies greatly depending on projects. It’s important to keep an eye on it, as it can show early signs of issues in your team.

velocity chart

Cumulative flow diagram

The purpose of the cumulative flow diagram (CFD) is to measure the current work in progress of your team. The number of work items is represented on the Y-axis, while the X-axis depicts time. There are different color bands, which signify the tasks in each stage, i.e. in backlog, in review, etc.

cumulative flow diagram

The best case scenario is to have a smooth diagram from left to right. The CFD visualizes any bottlenecks in the process, which allows you to make adjustments and improve the workflow.

For example, if there are too many items stacked in review like in Sprint 6 above, , you have to redirect resources to team members working on these tasks. This will give them a chance to catch up and stay on track, thus removing the bottleneck.

Lead time

Lead time covers all the different processes for delivering a product. It starts when a story enters the backlog (ex: when the client makes a request for a feature) and ends when it is completed in a Sprint and shipped to the client.

In this sense, lead time is a measurement of the speed of your team’s value chain. It presents an evaluation of your Agile project management from start to finish. The shorter the lead time gets, the more efficient your processes have become.

lead time chard

Cycle time

Cycle time is a subset of the lead time, which is dedicated to a single item of work. It measures the time from when work on a story has started until it is completed. Thus, it tracks the progress of a task from the backlog through the current stage to final execution (done).

Typically, the cycle time should be about half the time that you plan for a Sprint. You can easily identify productivity issues by checking this indicator. If the cycle time is longer than a Sprint, the team is not delivering on the work in the agreed upon timeline.

Control chart

Control charts complement the data you get from reviewing cycle times.

control chart

Typically, the cycle time should be about half the time that you plan for a Sprint. You can easily identify productivity issues by checking this indicator. If the cycle time is longer than a Sprint, the team is not delivering on the work in the agreed upon timeline.

Throughput

Throughput is one of the most essential productivity metrics for your team. It measures how many items have been executed within a certain period of time, such as one Sprint. It gives you an overview of how many story points are processed within one iteration.

throughput chart

Thus, you can understand the capacity for task completion on a certain project. Over time, you can see how throughput remains stable or changes, and adjust accordingly.

By monitoring throughput, you can check how the workflow of your team affects the overall performance of your business.

Escaped defects

Defect metrics in Agile are important so that you have an indicator about the quality of released products.

escaped defects chart

In the best case, there should be no “escaped defects.”

Measuring the bugs that have been missed is essential for identifying pitfalls and improving your production process.

Failed deployments

Measuring failed deployments gives you an assessment of the reliability of your production process. It illuminates flaws in your development process, and can result in downtime for your team and the loss of customers.

It gives you an idea how market-ready the product releases that your team is building are. Failed deployments also show you how stable your test and production environments are.

Net Promoter Score

The Net Promoter Score (NPS) is an essential indicator for the satisfaction of customers with your products. Typically it’s a scale of 0 to 10, and can be used in a variety of ways.

The exact score signifies how likely a person is to recommend your work to peers and the public. You can use this metric to identify if there are issues with the content and delivery of your products, as the focus of Agile is on providing value to the end client.

Many companies will send out a NPS survey after a sale, or while checking in on a project.

net promoter score chart
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