New tools to improve performance
on August 29, 2022 (last modified on January 19, 2023) • 20 minute read
Looking to make your software development process as productive as possible? Want to improve your workflow so every team member has optimal conditions to do their best work? But you’re not sure what metrics will provide you with accurate (and useful) data to build your future decision upon?
We’ve all been there: nailing down the type and number of metrics is challenging, so we often end up with tracking none and having no feedback on our work, or tracking way too many and turning our processes into chaos.
Software development and testing are a particularly sensitive topic since preventing issues or fixing them at an early stage usually means saving a lot of time and money. It’s critical to be up to date with any changes and fluctuations that occur in your workflow. We polled 18 companies to learn how often they monitor their agile metrics, which ones they track, and more.
Most companies that participated in the survey check their software development dashboards and monitor their agile metrics at least once a day.
In this guide, you’ll learn more about what agile metrics are, which ones are the most relevant, and how to use them in a software development and testing agile dashboard.
Let’s get started.
Agile metrics are the standards of measurement in the agile methodology that provide software development teams with insights regarding their productivity at different stages of SDCL (Software Development Life Cycle).
Unlike traditional metrics, agile metrics focus on the outcome of the agile processes instead of the output, which may, for example, prioritize speed instead over quality of the work performed. Agile metrics also favor cross-team effort and collaboration, which are the core of the agile methodology.
Through tracking agile metrics, teams can evaluate both their own performance and the quality of their product, as the focus shifts from how much has been done to how much impact the work has, especially on clients or customers and their overall satisfaction. This approach to what’s being or has been done helps software developers self-manage, speed up their process, and deliver value to both team members and end users.
Related: How to Create a Dashboard In Jira? A Step By Step Guide
We can divide agile metrics into three major categories:
Lean metrics are used to monitor the performance of a process and optimize it by eliminating unnecessary activities that waste your time, but don’t enhance the process in any way. Cycle time, lean time, and throughput are commonly measured lean metrics.
Staying on top of lean metrics helps you ensure your customers or clients always receive value, especially as you’re scaling and need to adjust your processes to your new workload, number of employees, etc.
Scrum metrics are used to quantify a team’s efficiency and identify the parts of the workflow that contribute to the team’s goals and parts of the workflow that need improvement. By tracking scrum metrics, teams can improve project planning, execution, and goal completion.
Scrum metrics are essentially data points that help scrum teams make data-driven decisions and understand how much they can get done within a specific period so they can better predict future deliveries to clients and customers. Velocity, sprint burndown, and sprint goal success are a few scrum metrics examples.
Kanban metrics are used to measure the time teams invest in a specific project in comparison to the outcome of that project. Tracking these metrics allows agile teams to understand how they can organize and prioritize their work in an optimal way, so they can spend less time on a task and deliver better results.
The importance of kanban metrics lies in the fact that they impact business value directly. Time to market, cumulative flow, and time to value are just a few kanban metrics examples.
Project management is all about juggling: resources, expectations, people, data, and much more. And as a project manager, you not only have to know where your projects are at any given moment, but you also have to be aware of where they’re going and where they need to be in the future. To do that using a project management system, you need an actionable dashboard that allows you to monitor metrics like:
Now you can benefit from the experience of our project managers, who have put together great plug-and-play Databox templates showing the most important KPIs for tracking your team’s performance. It’s simple to implement and start using as a standalone dashboard or in management reports, and best of all, it’s free!
You can easily set it up in just a few clicks – no coding required.
To set up the dashboard, follow these 3 simple steps:
Step 1: Get the template
Step 2: Connect your project management tool with Databox.
Step 3: Watch your dashboard populate in seconds.
We’ve researched a number of agile dashboards and talked to over 15 experts to learn more about the must-have metrics to track when applying agile principles.
Here are the 26 most relevant metrics you need to make room for on your agile dashboard.
Sprint burndown report is a scrum metric that helps team managers measure how much work their teams have done in real time. This metric is helpful in determining whether the team is able to forecast properly the amount of work they’ll be able to do and shows if the sprint goal is likely to be met.
You can use sprint burndown reports for current projects (to forecast the timeline and budget), but also to analyze your past project performance. Leverage this metric to identify who on your team needs help to speed things up at the beginning of the sprint, and who needs additional support to stay motivated till the end of a project.
Velocity is the average amount of work a scrum team can complete in a sprint between one and four weeks. It’s usually measured in hours or story points. Almost all companies we surveyed about agile metrics include velocity in their software engineering dashboard.
Tracking velocity allows teams to better predict their future project needs in terms of time and expenses. In case a team’s velocity declines over time, it can be a good sign for the manager to examine any potential conflicts or misunderstandings among team members that may be affecting the team’s output. If you implement any changes in your processes to improve the workflow and help team members connect among each other, you should also see a boost in velocity. You can also track velocity “to make better decisions about how resources should be allocated,” according to Joseph Harisson of IT Companies Network.
Epic and release burndown measures your team’s progress within a larger project that can be broken down into smaller stories. It encompasses the work done in a longer period of time than a sprint. A single sprint can contain several epics.
This metric can be used both for scrum and kanban teams and is particularly useful for tracking any changes in the scope of work that’s been determined at the beginning. As the team moves through their project, they check the epic and release burndown charts to ensure they’re up to date with any new tasks added to a sprint or removed from it.
A control chart is a helpful kanban metric that allows teams to check how much time it takes them to move a project and individual tasks within a project from “in progress” to “completed”. The more consistent these cycle times are, the easier it is for teams to predict their output. At the same time, teams with shorter cycle times deliver work faster and their velocity also increases.
Tracking control charts can help managers and team members make adjustments based on task type to ensure consistent output and make sure cycle times can remain the same even if the team tackles a completely new project.
A cumulative flow diagram represents a visualization of your team’s workflow consisting of two axes: the “y” represents the number of stories or tasks, while “x” represents the time required to complete the tasks. In this diagram, you can usually identify tasks in your backlog, tasks in progress, tasks waiting for approval, and completed tasks.
Tracking this kanban metric is helpful because it lets you easily identify potential bottlenecks in your workflow. For example, if the flow isn’t smooth from left to right, the area that’s standing out from the rest may indicate that, for example, that your team’s capacity has overgrown the number of tasks coming in, so you can distribute the team members to other projects.
Lead time refers to the amount of time that passes between a request for a task to be completed and the actual completion of the task. Lead time belongs to kanban metrics and is used to measure the length of the production and delivery cycles.
If you track your lead time, you can predict the time required to complete every process with more accuracy. If any of your tasks are taking way longer than expected, that’s a sign that there are bottlenecks to identify and resolve.
Value delivered is assigned to every task a team needs to complete. It’s up to the manager to determine whether the value will be monetary or if the team will use a scoring system to assess the tasks. High-value tasks will have priority over low-value tasks as they directly dictate the value delivered to the client.
When tracking value delivered, you should see the metric go up, which means your team is prioritizing the tasks correctly. If you notice a downward trend, you should reassess your priorities, as it shows that the team is implementing low-value features.
NPS is a customer satisfaction metric calculated for a software release. It describes how likely your users are to recommend your software to others. It’s usually measured by asking the users one question: On a scale from 1 to 10, how likely are you to recommend our product to your friends and colleagues?
You can calculate your NPS percentage by identifying the number of users who rated you 9 or 10. Your NPS should have a positive rating (more promoters than detractors, who rate your product 0-6). If not, you need to research why your software isn’t meeting the audience’s expectations.
Work item age is the amount of time that passes from the moment you start working on a task, software feature, or a user story, to the moment you complete it. Looking at this metric will inform you of how long ago the task was created and help you determine its estimated timeline.
By tracking work item age for your tasks, you can identify those that get “too old”. Then you can evaluate their value to the project and take action: eliminate them if they’re not valuable enough, or redefine their scope to make them more relevant.
Throughput is a kanban metric that refers to the number of tasks a team completes over a specific time period. It’s used to measure a team’s productivity, usually weekly, monthly, or quarterly.
Tracking throughput is useful because it allows the team manager to calculate the average time their team spends developing a software feature, or determine how much they can achieve within a specific time unit. Data collected by tracking throughput can help you make more accurate estimates about future projects and assess the capacity of your team and their impact on overall business performance.
Blocked time is used for tasks that can’t be completed because of a dependency. For example, a feature needs external approval from an external party before the assignee continues the development process.
When the dependency is resolved, the assignee can move on to complete the task in progress and move it to the right on the task board. Tracking the amount of time during which tasks are blocked on your board will require your attention. Analyze the blockers to identify any repetitive or unnecessary time sinks so you can remove them and improve your team’s workflow.
Similarly to lead time, cycle time measures the amount of time that passes between an individual task being marked as “started” to it being in review. In other words, the amount of time the assignee is actively working on a task. As mentioned earlier, teams with high, consistent throughput have a shorter cycle time, making them more reliable in terms of delivering work.
Cycle time is an important metric for both kanban and scrum teams and one of the most-tracked additional metrics among the companies we surveyed.
Tracking cycle time allows you to identify blockers in your processes and improve them quickly, as you can immediately notice if a task is taking too long. Fernando Lopez of Circuit adds that cycle time ” helps measure how long each individual task takes without outside causes of delay”, so you’ll know that the culprit for delays is a factor you can control. Additionally, you can use this metric to calculate the number of cycles you’ll have within one project.
FTT is a metric that calculates the percentage of tasks or user stories that the time gets right the first time. That means the task meets all quality requirements without the need to reassess, retest, or repair.
This metric is a useful tool for evaluating your manufacturing process. If you discover that it isn’t satisfactory, you can take action to improve your processes and consequently improve customer satisfaction.
Escaped defects is a metric used to evaluate the quality of your deliverables. It measures the number of bugs that appear when a release enters production, after the task is marked as completed. These bugs are issues that should have been fixed before completing the task, but the developers missed them.
Assessing the quality of a task at this point is critical as it allows you to resolve problems and bugs before they cause damage and waste the team’s budget and time. Ideally, escaped defects should be zero. But, even if there are any, they’re a valuable metric for team managers to identify issues in the production process and fix them.
Number of customer support requests is an important customer support metric tracked by agile teams, used to measure how many customer support requests your team receives on a day-to-day basis.
This number helps you evaluate your team capacity and determine what changes need to be implemented for the overall process and other metrics, like customer satisfaction or average resolution time, to improve.
Failed deployments measure the overall number of deployments and enable you to understand how reliable your testing is. A failed deployment is any product that the team deployed, but which didn’t get released or wasn’t a success among users.
Tracking failed deployments and reasons why they happened is critical because it helps you plan better for future release. During the analysis of past failed deployments, you can determine what went wrong and further polish your product until it meets all requirements.
Release frequency measures how often a software development team releases new features and makes them available to customers. It’s different from deployment, which refers to installing software in a test environment, such as a test server.
High release frequency can indicate the maturity of your team’s development process. It’s even more valuable to measure this metric against deployment frequency, and calculate the percentage of deployed features that actually get released. The more you release, the more feedback you can collect and improve your product further.
Code coverage is a metric used for measuring how much of the code a test unit covers—more precisely, the number of code lines that you’re testing. This metric is one of the most popular in agile software development because it has a huge impact on ensuring software quality.
Monitoring code coverage allows you to discover bugs and issues early on and fix them before release, which helps save time and money. If your code coverage is low, it’s often an indicator of a low-quality code. However, a high code coverage doesn’t automatically mean your code doesn’t contain any bugs as there are many different types of tests (like integration testing) that aren’t a part of this metric.
Happiness is among the most important health metrics agile teams can track. Your team’s success doesn’t only depend on their technical skills and knowledge, but also on interpersonal relationships in the team and open communication about issues and opportunities.
You can track happiness in your team by asking team members to rate their overall experience (or happiness) on a scale from 1 to 5. Open-ended questions will allow you to dive deeper into the reasons behind the scores your team provided and work on improving the atmosphere for better results.
Unlike happiness, team morale is a metric focused on the professional aspects of your team: their productivity, self-confidence, and satisfaction with career development. It’s one of the most useful agile metrics for leadership as it also speaks to your team management skills.
Here, you can use a similar approach to tracking your team’s happiness. Combine a numerical scale with open-ended questions such as “Do you feel you’re using your full potential to complete tasks you’re being assigned?” or “Does working in this team help you expand/improve your skills?”. This combination will give you the most accurate picture of the team morale.
Team member turnover is a metric used as an indicator of how healthy the work environment is. Keeping the turnover at a steady rate is okay as teams progress over time: some members leave, and new hires join.
However, if your team members often leave without sticking around for too long, it may be a sign of an unhealthy environment. If you have many new joiners over a short period of time, you need to pay special attention to your onboarding process to make sure you set everyone up for success, train them on using the required tools, and so on.
Mean time between failures is an operational metric that measures the average time that elapses between two failures of the software in normal circumstances. It’s usually measured in hours.
You can calculate the MTBF by dividing the total uptime of your software (the total amount of running time) by the number of stoppages that happened during that time. Tracking this metric helps you evaluate your software’s reliability and schedule maintenance activities to ensure the system’s efficiency.
Mean time to recover (or repair) is another incident metric that measures the average time your team needs to repair the system and get it up and running after a failure. You can calculate MTTR by adding up the number of hours spent on repairs and dividing it by the number of repairs. Note that time of outage isn’t the same as time to recovery as the actual recovery usually starts minutes after the outage happens.
Like MTBF, MTTR is a useful metric to track to ensure your maintenance activities are well-organized and as efficient as possible.
Pull request size is a metric used to track the number of lines of code that your team had to add, remove, or modify. Smaller pull requests take less time to review and implement than larger pull requests that may require attention from several team members.
Tracking pull requests provides a learning opportunity both on the team level and for individual members. If pull requests are constantly large, your team’s processes may require taking a closer look and you should use it as a mentoring opportunity to help all team members improve. However, don’t use size of pull requests as a comparison metric for individual performance, since pull request size can depend on many factors, like complexity of a project.
Pull request review time measures how long your team takes to review a pull request. This metric depends on how complex the request is and can range from a few minutes to a few weeks. The rule of thumb is—the shorter, the better.
Common reasons causing tasks to sit waiting for a review are large pull requests, lack of team capacity, or team’s inability to prioritize the review. To speed up your review process and have better PR review time, you can, for example, split up large pull requests into smaller tasks and bug fixes that will improve the team’s productivity.
Code churn measures how much teams need to change the code base before they release it. The metric includes any additions, removals, or changes to the code after it’s been completed. Early on in every sprint, you will be able to notice fluctuations in the code, but as the project moves forward, you should see the graph become more stable until it decreases just before the release.
Code churn increasing or fluctuating at the final stages of a project may indicate potential issues. For example, the product owner may be giving you unclear instructions or the engineer is spending too much time polishing the code when they should be sending it for testing because it’s good enough for company standards.
Tracking and assessing your workflow through agile metrics can boost your team’s productivity, improve the quality of work you deliver, and save you valuable resources in the process. Measuring agile metrics and KPIs allows you to identify problems early on and stop wasting time on fixing what could have easily been avoided.
Sound like the right direction for your team? But adopting new dashboards and metrics may seem like too much hassle?
Databox makes it easy. We want to help you make any transitions easy and avoid disrupting your usual workflows—except if we’re making them better. In fact, we’ll build your first dashboard for free as soon as in the next 24 hours and provide you with the necessary guidance on which metrics to track and how to make the most out of your new dashboard.
The first step is simple—create your free account and choose the desired data source. It takes a minute to get started, but the results you’ll generate will last much longer.
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