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Using metrics in reporting

Basic

difficulty

Stage 3

Agile IQ® Level

Metrics

Reporting

Introduction

Principle 7 of the Agile Manifesto reminds teams that “working software is the primary measure of progress”. Many people, though, are accustomed to project management reporting and have associated expectations of reporting on activity and milestones. Both of these provide hindsight:

  • What have we done?
  • What did we achieve?
  • Are we compliant?

Agile teams, though, tend to look at a range of other metrics:

  • Quality – How much rework are we doing? How many bugs and defects are we inadvertently creating? How can we create quality so that we don’t have to spend time (and money) fixing things later.
  • Cost of hero work – Are we having to do extra hours to deliver against our delivery commitments? What’s the hidden dollar cost?
  • Ability to pivot faster – What is the time from an idea to delivery? How can we decrease this time, and maintain high quality, so people receive value faster?

Velocity

Velocity is the most widely used metric for agile teams. It’s a very useful metric for teams to use in planning to understand their capacity and work out how much work to take on.

When used as a measure of productivity by managers, who then ask a team to “increase their velocity”, teams end up simply inflating the Story Points they assign to Product Backlog items.

Be careful how you use this metric.

What is it?

  • How much of the Product Backlog can the team turn into an Increment of Done. Many teams measure this through the use of Story Points.
  • Velocity is used as a Sprint Burn Down Chart in the Sprint to determine progress toward the Sprint Goal
  • Velocity is used between Sprints in a Product Burndown Chart to understand likely completion dates, and increase/decrease in the Product Backlog over time.
burn-down
Above: Burndown chart showing items Done over the Sprint
velocity over time
Above: Velocity over time

What is it?

  • How much of the Product Backlog can the team turn into an Increment of Done. Many teams measure this through the use of Story Points.

What it’s not

  • Effort points. Just because a team feel they have done 1/2 the work doesn’t mean they get 1/2 the Story Points. If the work doesn’t achieve the Definition of Done, then the work doesn’t count toward velocity.

Good for

  • Burndown charts. It tells you how the team is tracking this Sprint.
  • The team understanding its own immediate past capacity to determine how much it can do in the future.
  • The Product Owner to use to help with roadmaps and release plans. If the team can turn 10 points of the Product Backlog into a Done Increment of work every Sprint, and there are 100 points of Product Backlog items, the Product Owner would forecast everything could be done in 10 Sprints.

Don’t use it for

  • Comparing teams.
  • Producing long-term forecasts (especially if roadmaps or plans are never or rarely updated). Natural variability means that the longer the forecast the more inaccurate it will be.
  • Tasks. Story Points only associated with Velocity are on the Backlog item.
  • Hours. Given there’s only a set number of hours in a Sprint and the team works at a sustainable pace, burning down hours is as useful as asking how many “days left in the Sprint?”

% Decrease in defects or rework

What is it?

  • The level of quality of a team’s work is best reported as the number of defects, technical debt, or rework that the team creates.
  • If the product was deployed but not released or failed to attract users, this is recorded as a failed deployment. Sometimes, a failed deployment happens to the decisions of one of the stakeholders, or the business model proves to be unreliable. 

Good for

Understanding:

  • The quality of the work done by the team. 
  • How much rework the team has to do each Sprint.
  • The reliability of the product or services the team deliver.
  • The likely burden of technical debt of the product.
  • Are the team actually delivering to the Definition of Done? Should we tighten the Definition of Done so that less bugs and rework gets through?

Don’t use it for

  • Punishing a team. Use the Retrospective to find out why a team has quality issues so you can address them.

Try this

  • Confirm the Definition of Done with the team – No severity 1-2 defects?
  • Count defects and rework over a few Sprints. 
  • Conduct a Retrospective to understand what is causing the rework.
  • Tighten the Sprint Plan to reduce rework.
  • Tighten the Definition of Done once rework reduces – Make the Definition of Done no severity 1-3 defects.
decrease in defects per quarter by agile iq
Above: Defects, bugs over time by Agile IQ

% Decrease in overtime

What is it?

  • Is the team delivering at a sustainable pace?
  • What is the hidden cost of teams working more time to ensure delivery occurs?

Good for

  • Understanding the dollar cost of delivery. When teams do overtime it’s often reflective of a problem with forecasts not being accurate, and teams underestimating what they can actually achieve in a given timeframe.

Don’t use it for

  • Punishing a team. Use the Retrospective to find out why the team needs additional time outside their Sprint to deliver their work. 

Try this

  • Record hours of overtime for both full-time and contractor staff.
  • In Sprint Planning, assess load (amount of work taken into a Sprint in Story Points) versus capacity (the average recent velocity). Are they taking on more than their capacity actually suggests?
  • Are the team reducing their load when there is a public holiday?
  • Are the team reducing their load to account for unplanned leave?
  • Are the team reducing their load to account for planned leave?
  • Compare load versus overtime. 
  • Compare load versus actual velocity.
  • Reward the team when their forecasts against load and capacity result in successful delivery without the need for overtime.
  • When delivery is successful and sustainable then challenge the team to increase their throughput while still maintaining a sustainable pace – e.g.: how can they increase their throughput by 25%?
decrease in overtime by agile iq
Above: Overtime by Agile IQ

% Work not Done

What is it?

  • When items from the Product Backlog are started in a Sprint, but doesn’t meet the Definition of Done.
  • Excludes work that changes based on adjustments made at Daily Scrum

Good for

  • Understanding whether the team is taking on too much work.
  • Understanding the ratio of work that the team can turn into value and release to users and stakeholders.
  • The amount of work likely to “spill” into other Sprints, delaying the realisation of value by users and stakeholders.
  • Understanding whether the team is Waterfalling their Sprints.

Don’t use it for

  • Punishing a team. It’s an opportunity to discover why this is occurring and help them to adjust their capacity planning.
Above: % work not done over time

Ratio successful to failed deployments

What is it?

  • How many bugs, errors, defects in total have not been able to be fixed and have been recorded in the Product Backlog?
  • Is this number increasing or decreasing and by how much?

Good for

  • Understanding the quality of the product.
  • Understanding the size of the opportunities for simplify the product to reduce complexity.
  • The opportunity to change the Definition of Done to reduce the likelihood of future errors.

Don’t use it for

  • Comparing teams. If teams are still meeting their Definition of Done the problem may be due to the product’s complexity or legacy. The metrics is often “gamed” by teams because “bigger is better” – they just end up inflating their estimates and Story Points.

Mean time to repair

What is it?

  • The average time required to troubleshoot and repair failed equipment.

Good for

  • Investigating the value and performance of assets so an organisation can make smarter decisions about asset management.
  • Understanding how quickly a team can respond to unplanned breakdowns and repair them.
  • Helping to ensure team’s preventive maintenance program and tasks are as effective and efficient as possible.
  • A gateway into the root cause of this problem and provides a path to a solution.

Don’t use it for

  • Vanity metric. It’s designed to help assess efficiency and eliminating redundancies, roadblocks, and confusion in maintenance so a business can avoid needless downtime and go back to what it does best.

Decrease in Lead Time

What is it?

  • The time it takes from when an item enters the Product Backlog till when it is Done.
  • If there are upstream decisions to define and approve work (e.g. a large feature), then that time is also included in the total Lead Time.
lead time and cycle time
Above: What is lead time?

What is it?

  • The time it takes from when an item enters the Product Backlog till when it is Done.
  • If there are upstream decisions to define and approve work (e.g. a large feature), then that time is also included in the total Lead Time.

Good for

  • Understanding time to deliver value to stakeholders and users.

Don’t use it for

  • Just reporting as a number. Report on what it was, what it is now, and what that means for the use of value by stakeholders and users.
  • Lead time and Cycle time are impacted by the number of items (work in-progress) in each step at once.
cycle-lead-time-lt-sample-chart
Above: Lead time graph in Microsoft DevOps

Decrease in Cycle Time

What is it?

  • The time it takes for a Backlog Item to get from “In Progress” to “Done” by a team.

Good for

  • Understanding how long work takes to get into the hands of users once the team starts work on it.

Don’t use it for

  • Cycle Time is useful to reflect one step in the bigger chain of events to deliver value. 
  • Use Lead Time to understand the full end-to-end picture of how long people have to wait.
  • Cycle time will be impacted by the number of items in each step at once.

Improvement in Team morale

What is it?

  • Return On Time Invested (ROTI) is an assessment by the team regarding how they feel about their investment of time with the team and at different points in the Sprint cycle.
  • Team members are asked to rate on a scale of 1-5 how they feel about their investment of time. 1=”I’d rather watch paint dry” and 5=”I got so much out of it!”. Team members are then asked what would be one thing in their power to influence that would increase their score by 1 point.

Good for

  • Getting a pulse on team mental health, morale and motivation.
  • Retrospectives.

Don’t use it for

  • Team happiness. The easiest way to make a team happy is to tell them they don’t have to do agile (they can do what they want). 

Try this

  • Many Scrum Masters forget the “people” part of their role, focussing instead on improving team processes. The social cohesion of a team is just as important. Team building, team lunches, an online gaming session, a paintball weekend, are all good for morale and team health.
Above: A ROTI exercise looking at team health across the Sprint

Usage Index

What is it?

  • Measurement of actual usage, by feature.
  • Helps infer the degree to which customers find the product useful and whether actual usage meets expectations on how long users should be taking with a feature.

Good for

  • Understanding whether users value the work of the team.

Don’t use it for

  • Punishing teams. A good Product Owner should use this metric to redirect the team’s energy into areas that will be used instead of areas that they might like.

Product Cost Ratio

What is it?

  • How much does a feature cost to produce and maintain compared to how much it used.
  • From a purely economic perspective: total expenses and costs for the product(s)/system(s) being measured, including operational costs compared to revenue.

Good for

  • How much the team is putting into creating features and value compared to how much their work is used. 
  • How much does the team really cost?

Don’t use it for

  • Punishing teams. A good Product Owner should use this metric to redirect the team’s energy into areas that will be used.
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