Categories: Agile, Benefits Realization, Metrics
by Christian Bisson
In a complex world where we strive to improve, there is one trending weakness that I’ve seen amongst many teams and organizations—they measure little to nothing, and make decisions based on “gut feeling.”
Having key metrics is a powerful tool to identify areas to improve, and not just for weak points—you want to recognize strong points as well so that you can continue them. Here are a few examples…
How many times have you seen teams happy to deliver something—only to have absolutely no idea what value was ultimately gained from that delivery? There are a few ways you can be blind to the value being delivered (or not delivered):
Not knowing how many users actually used a new feature (maybe none?)
Was anything gained out of it? (Money? New hires or better retention?)
What was the actual cost compared to the gain?
All too often, people waste money when they could focus their resources elsewhere if they measured the return on investment (ROI) and adapted accordingly.
What will be delivered, and when? Every organization faces a challenge to know this. And all too often, typical random delivery dates are given to stakeholders—and forced on teams. This in turn hurts the quality of the deliverable (not to mention the very small odds that the dates are even being respected).
By measuring on a small scale (like a team’s velocity throughout sprints) or a larger scale (like being familiar with SAFe and its “product increments”), you can compare results to actual data to make more reliable predictions (at the end of the day, it is still a guess).
Product backlog health
Throughout the years, I’ve seen many backlogs, from small to gigantic. And I rarely see any of them being measured to make sure they’re actually healthy.
The definition of “healthy” varies, but in this case let’s assume it means that the backlog is an ordered/usable artefact that teams can rely on to know what to work on next to bring value to stakeholders.
Here are a few things that can be measured:
How many items are ready to be used by the team (i.e., refined)?
Is it too much? Too little?
How many total items are there in the backlog? (If there are too many, it becomes clutter.)
How much time do items spend in the backlog before they get started? (I’ve seen items rot in backlogs for years, never getting done,)
There are so many things that can be measured and used to properly align next steps—and they require the proper tools to do it efficiently. You want to spend as little time as possible getting the data and results that you need, and utilize reliable “live” information (with little cost to get it).
What will you be measuring in 2023? What do you think your blind spots are?