Welcome to Agile by the Numbers

  • Posted on: 3 February 2014
  • By: leor
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This series of articles delves into the sticky topic of Agile metrics. Let me state right off the bat that this is NOT focused on measuring the performance of an Agile team for purposes of benchmarking or report-card scoring, although you will get some nice data for this purpose if you follow along.

The main purpose of Agile by the Numbers is to put a small number of key sensors in place, to create information for the Agile team to see where they are headed and where they can focus to improve their success.

I prefer the term “sensor” to “metric” because I believe that the purpose of any measurement is to improve a team’s ability to sense and respond to issues affecting their success. Metrics, on the other hand, tend to be more management-focused and frequently do not deliver this type of value at the team level.

Each of the sensors I will be discussing in this series tie back to one of two things: enabling a team to produce finished software faster (measured by Team Velocity) and increasing the business impact, or value, of the software delivered (Business Value).

If a measurement does not impact either of these, then I would have a hard time explaining why it is meaningful to the team. Let me say that again: if you are collecting data that does not show your team how to increase their velocity or value production, then you should ask yourself who it is for, and whether it helps you create an observable, meaningful result.

Each article in this series will focus on one aspect of Agile team success: what to measure, why to measure it, and how to ensure the team is drawing the right conclusions from what you see.

We’ll start with a brief definition of success:

The success of an Agile team is primarily determined by:

  • The team’s ability to plan and complete a set of stories within a sprint, have the work accepted by the business owner, technical reviewer(s) and have zero defects carried over in to the next sprint.
  • Agile teams that focus on this definition can accelerate their ability to deliver business-valued software by 100% or more of their initial velocity, while working at a steady, sustainable pace.

In my professional work I have witnessed dozens of teams achieve and maintain this goal and while it can take some teams months to get there, once it happens these high-performance agile teams make the whole thing look easy.

High performance agile teams avoid lengthy meetings, spend their lunch hours playing ping pong or shooting basketballs at a wall, and are able to spend their evenings and weekends with their families, and their days working at sustainable pace that continues to accelerate sprint after sprint.

Using the techniques described in this article series, your team can too!