You can’t improve what you don’t measure
Peter Drucker, a business guru who has published many successful books, made this statement several years ago.
I have always liked metrics, and I resonate with this statement because it really makes sense. It is nearly impossible to get better at something if we don’t know where we stand today. We have to find a way to measure how good we are doing because it helps us determine what shortcomings we have, and where we can change to get better.
When it comes to the performance of an Agile team, metrics is a critical tool that many teams struggle to leverage effectively.
Why is this the case? My theory is that most teams lack the experience to know what to measure, as well as efficient tools to facilitate the measurement process. And of course, teams are often heavily influenced by management folks that demand some type of status report, which could complicate the process further.
For new Agile teams, I usually recommend starting simple, and then work incrementally towards more sophisticated metrics only if the team finds value in them.
Team Velocity – How much work is the team doing? The team’s productivity is a popular and important metric to track because it helps the team forecast future performance, which project sponsors will need to know.
Lead Time – How much time does it take for a request to be complete from the time that it is submitted to the time that the requester has it? This is a very important data point to look at because most teams will have the opportunity to cut down on wait times through automation or other efficiency improvements that can make a significant difference to the end user.
Cycle Time – How quickly does the team complete the work that it starts? This metric allows the team to monitor the amount of time it takes to actually do the work and get it out the door to the end users and customers. This data will often be used to calculate or estimate labor cost, which is a discussion for another time.
It is impossible to get better unless your team knows what NEEDS to change. Start tracking some basic metrics as soon as you can, and look for patterns and trends that will help you hone in on problem areas.