Agile Program Measurements to Visualize and Track Progress

Mass Bay Chapter

Johanna Rothman works with companies to improve how they manage their product development--to maximize management and technical staff productivity and to improve product quality. She is the author of Manage Your Project Portfolio: Increase Your Capacity and Finish More Projects and the Jolt Productivity award-winning Manage It: Your Guide to Modern, Pragmatic Project Management. She is the author of the forthcoming Agile and Lean Program Management: Collaborating Across the Organization. See her blogs and more of her writing at

Program sponsors and the teams themselves want to know where they are in the program. What’s started? What’s not? How much more remains?

It’s tempting to measure “everything.” That creates another problem: You might spend too much time attempting to gather data that doesn’t provide enough information. You might even miss seeing the real progress if you spend too much time attempting to gather surrogate data.

Agile provides us the opportunity to measure what has actually occurred: empirical data. Given the observations, agile program managers don’t need too many measurements. Here are three that will help you see the program’s progress.

Measure What You Want to See
You have any number of possibilities for what you could measure. I have a guideline: Measure what you want to see more of and maybe what you want to see less of.

I want to see more features and see less work in progress, so I measure features and WIP. Because the teams are agile, I expect them to measure their escaped defects, but I might measure those, too—just in case defects are escaping everywhere.

I don’t measure velocity or cycle time because this is a program. Any given team’s velocity or cycle time is unique to that team, so it doesn’t make sense to measure velocity or cycle time at the program level. (I do recommend each …

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