How to choose Agile metrics: your guide
February 20, 2020

Software Development

How to choose Agile metrics that you will like

By Olga Matuts

Just like project management tools, Agile metrics are working tools instruments of a scrum master or a kanban master that help to monitor, measure, and forecast the productivity of teams on all stages of software development. Agile metrics, or Agile KPIs, can be used for in-house agile teams and dedicated agile teams. With them, scrum or kanban masters can track quality and performance and get an overall picture of the project and the level of comfort of team members. 

Let’s take a look at the well-known types of Agile metrics in detail.

Types of Agile Metrics

We can broadly define 3 types of agile metrics:

While Scrum and Kanban metrics are most often used in software development, Lean KPIs are also good for optimizing manufacturing physical products.

We can classify Agile metrics by the object of evaluation:

  • Agile quality metrics;
  • Agile productivity metrics;
  • Agile project metrics;
  • Agile metrics of the team health;
  • Agile software quality metrics.

Agile Quality Metrics

This kind of metrics is used to estimate the quality of software development. Also, it can give a picture of how the target market will welcome the product. 

Escaped Defects

This required metric determines how many bugs a product has at the moment of production. With escaped defects, sprint/kanban masters can visualize the quality level of the product and take measures to fix bugs on time.

Failed Deployment

If sprint/kanban masters analyze failed deployments, they can learn how reliable their testing and production environments are and if the development team is creating working software.

Net Promoter Score

NPS defines the popularity of the software product and helps to predict potential demand. This metric shows users’ reactions to the release. NPS can be used as a quality metric and a customer satisfaction metric. 

Agile Productivity Metrics

The set of Agile productivity metrics can help to assess the productivity level of the team, how developers implement tasks of different sizes. With this knowledge, the Agile master can forecast the productivity of the team in future sprints and prepare for potential difficulties. Let’s consider the most popular Agile productivity metrics.

Lead Time

Lead time is the period from the moment some point is added to the backlog till the moment this point is finally realized as a feature, and the sprint is complete. If lead time is low, it means the team has high productivity. So, if you want to track the productivity of your development team, you need this Agile metric.

Cycle Time

This indicator relates to Lead time and shows the average duration of fulfilling a task by the team. If the team has almost the same cycle time, a scrum/kanban master can forecast the required time for future working processes. In this case, it is also easier to find the problem area in Agile development.

Sprint Burndown

Sprint Burndown gives the opportunity to track the sprint flow in real time and shows the Agile level of your team. How does it work? Before starting a sprint, members of the team determine how many points of the story they can fulfill in the course. With this information, the scrum/kanban master can check the completion of story points and see if the team meets the deadline.

Epic & Release Burndown

Epic & Release burndown metrics are used when the customer adds more tasks after the working process has already started. Additional tasks reduce the visible effectiveness of the team if the sprint is too short. So the scrum/kanban master analyzes the effectiveness of the large piece of work.

Velocity

This indicator gives the ability to estimate the number of completed story points over previous sprints. With these results, scrum/kanban masters can predict the efficiency of the team in future sprints. Velocity is an easy-to-estimate and clear indicator, which makes it one of the most important Agile metrics.

The productivity of the team depends on a lot of factors, so it is required to monitor its changes over time. You can calculate the Velocity if you take the number of finished story points and divide it by the number of complete sprints.

Agile Software Project Metrics

This kind of metric is an addition to the previous ones and also helps teams to prevent difficulties with the development process.

Cumulative Flow

This is the strongest Agile metric for kanban. It provides a common vision of your sprint tasks and their completion. The Kanban master can monitor the statuses of all tasks at all workflow stages and see the problem areas of the project in one chart.

Code Coverage

As the name suggests, this metric shows how much code is covered with unit tests.

Kanban masters can include Code Coverage into a build and automatically run it.

Code Coverage can be measured with the help of module testing that consists of methods, conditions, operators, and branches. 

Pay attention that Code Coverage doesn’t include the input of other types of testing, so you can’t measure the quality of code with this metric.

Agile Metrics for Team Health

Like the level of productivity and the quality of development, team health or well-being also has an important role for the project. As a rule, the most commonly measured metrics are the level of happiness and team morale. 

Level of Happiness

It is complicated to measure the abstract concept of satisfaction in the team, but team members can define their level of happiness with the help of a scale from 1 to 5. The psychologist Christiaan Verwijs suggests using the next questions to determine the level of satisfaction:

  • How happy are you with your company? (from 1 to 5)
  • What feels best right now? 
  • What feels worst right now?
  • What would increase your happiness? 

Team morale

Team morale is a more specific indicator compared to happiness. We can measure it using several statements (by Christiaan Verwijs) and assessing them with a score from 1 to 5 or to 7:

  • I feel good and confident in my team.
  • I am proud of my work on my team.
  • I am encouraged by my work for the team.
  • I realize the meaning of my work for the team.

Every scrum/kanban master chooses the own way of measuring Agile metrics of team health. These metrics can play a crucial role in increasing the productivity of the developers. You should try to ask these questions and work with the answers to get the needed results. 

Main Lean & Kanban Metrics

The Lean & Kanban metrics suit both software development and goods manufacturing. 

Story Lead Time (SLT)

SLT has much in common with Lead Time and shows how much time passed from adding a user story to the backlog till it is complete. It includes all time spent on a user story, even the time when it was waiting in the backlog. Though your team completed a story in 10 days, it would be a low indicator if this story had previously spent a month in the backlog. SLT not only measures time but also motivates your team to take tasks from the backlog faster.

Story Cycle Time (SCT)

SCT is a part of SLT, and it measures the time spent on completing a story. It can be equal to half of the sprint or less. When scrum/kanban masters calculate time, they should also take into account the changing phases of a story (for example, from development to testing).

Feature Lead Time (FLT)

Feature Lead Time works like a Story Lead Time and measures all the time spent on a feature from backlog to release. It is crucial to define how much time the team needs to create and release the feature to the client.

Feature Cycle Time (FCT)

It is also an analogue of the Story Cycle Time for features. This metric helps to know how much time the team needs for feature development (without backlog time).

Story Wait Time (SWT)

SWT is a part of the Story Lead Time, the metric for measuring the time required for task fulfillment. The goal of the team is to reduce its SWT.

Story Throughput (ST)

ST works like a Sprint Velocity, and it is needed for calculating the number of finished stories on the sprint. In this way, you should include stories in a sprint when they are finished. Scrum/kanban masters can use ST instead of Velocity, Sprint Burndown, and Sprint Burnup if stories have the same size and the standard distribution. 

Created-to-Finished Ratio 

This kind of metric can help scrum/kanban masters to find weak points in the team’s workflow when a lot of cases return to the backlog and the smallest part is done. They can use it to see the ratio created stories to finished items. A large gap between them is normal at the beginning of the project when the team members create a lot of user stories to test their ideas. The ratio should decrease to the moment of finishing the project, otherwise, it means there are problems in the workflow.

Agile Software Quality Metrics 

Customer needs evolve, so companies have to update their products constantly.

Such updating leads to source code changing and bugs. In this case, scrum/kanban masters should analyze code in complex, not only with the help of Code Coverage. Let’s consider what the scrum/kanban master can use to check the quality of code.

Static Code Analysis

With the help of static code analysis, the scrum/kanban master or the QA team can track the source code without running software. They can use it in the early version of the product with the help of dedicated tools and make this process automated or semi-automated.

Dynamic Code Analysis

This Agile metric is used for measuring the code quality of the running software and shows how the product works and how its different parts interact with each other. So, the QA team should use both variants of code analysis to see the whole situation.

Quality Intelligence

Quality intelligence tools let QA teams monitor and use the information related to the project during the entire software development lifecycle. This data helps to increase the quality of code, find weaknesses, and optimize the development process.

There are many Agile metrics and tools that can increase the efficiency of teamwork and, as a result, the quality of the product. Scrum/kanban masters should build a personal set of working metrics depending on the project.

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