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Ten Key Metrics for Agile Project Management

On an agile project, metrics can be powerful tools for planning, inspecting, adapting, and understanding progress over time. The key metrics to pay attention to are

  • Sprint goal success rates: A successful sprint should have a working product feature that fulfills the sprint goals and meets the scrum team's definition of done: developed, tested, integrated, and documented.

    Throughout the project, the scrum team can track how frequently it succeeds in reaching the sprint goals and use success rates to see whether the team is maturing or needs to correct its course.

  • Defects: Defects are a part of any project, but agile approaches help development teams proactively minimize defects. Tracking defect metrics can let the development team know how well it's preventing issues and when to refine its processes.

    The number of defects and whether defects are increasing, decreasing, or staying the same are good metrics to spark discussions on project processes and development techniques at sprint retrospectives.

  • Total project duration: Agile projects get done quicker than traditional projects. By starting development sooner and cutting out bloatware — unnecessary requirements — agile project teams can deliver products quicker. Measure total project duration to help demonstrate efficiency.

  • Time to market: Time to market is the amount of time an agile project takes to provide value, either through internal use or by generating income, by releasing working products and features to users.

    Time to market is especially important for companies with revenue-generating products, because it aids in budgeting throughout the year. It's also very important if you have a self-funding project — a project being paid for by the income from the product.

  • Total project cost: Cost on agile projects is directly related to duration. Because agile projects are faster than traditional projects, they can also cost less. Organizations can use project cost metrics to plan budgets, determine return on investment, and know when to exercise capital redeployment.

  • Return on investment: Return on investment (ROI) is income generated by the product, less project costs: money in versus money out. On agile projects, ROI is fundamentally different than it is on traditional projects. Agile projects have the potential to generate income with the very first release and can increase revenue with each new release.

    ROI metrics are a great way for an organization to appreciate the ongoing value of an agile project. ROI metrics help justify projects from the start because companies can fund projects based on ROI potential. Organizations can track ROI for individual projects as well as for the organization as a whole.

  • New requests within ROI budgets: Agile projects' ability to quickly generate high ROI provides organizations with a unique way to fund additional product development. New product features may translate to higher product income. If a project is already generating income, it can make sense for an organization to roll that income back into new development and see higher revenue.

  • Capital redeployment: On an agile project, when the cost of future development is higher than the value of that future development, it's time for the project to end. The organization may then use the remaining budget from the old project to start a new, more valuable project.

  • Satisfaction surveys: A scrum team's highest priority is to satisfy the customer. At the same time, the scrum team strives to motivate individual team members and promote sustainable development practices. A scrum team can benefit from digging deeper into customer and team member experiences through satisfaction surveys.

  • Team member turnover: Agile projects tend to have higher morale. One way of quantifying morale is by measuring turnover through a couple metrics:

    • Scrum team turnover: Low scrum team turnover can be one sign of a healthy team environment. High scrum team turnover can indicate problems with the project, the organization, the work, individual scrum team members, burnout, ineffective product owners forcing development team commitments, personality incompatibility, a scrum master who fails to remove impediments, or overall team dynamics.

    • Company turnover: High company turnover, even if it doesn't include the scrum team, can affect morale and effectiveness. High company turnover can be a sign of problems within the organization. As a company adopts agile practices, it may see turnover decrease.

    When the scrum team knows turnover metrics and understands the reasons behind those metrics, it may be able to take actions to maintain morale and improve the work environment.

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