Measuring Value, 1

Are we doing Agile? Being Agile? To what degree? I’ve asked myself this any number of times and I’m guessing that you have or that your clients have.

I’ve certainly felt like Goldilocks at various times in my personal Agile journey. This organization is not doing product ownership properly. This organization is losing value in the release process. And in one way or another, they were flawed in their execution of one or more Agile practices.

But they were Agile to some degree at least. And they were a vast improvement – in delivery, productivity, value and satisfaction – than my previous non-Agile work experiences.

How can I quantitatively and/or qualitatively measure the level of agility in a team, project or organization and thereby providing a shared frame of reference for discussions with clients?

I’ve continued to work on the organizational assessment framework I’ve outlined previously. My original plan was to deconstruct each of the 12 Agile principles and brainstorm possible metrics – descriptive, predictive and/or prescriptive – for each principle.

Here are my preliminary efforts, starting with principle #1:

Our highest priority is to satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of valuable software.

Obviously the key concept here is value, since not all Agile projects are software development projects. So, can we quantify value? And can we generate value-related metrics?

Here are some metrics* that possibly could represent how well we’re doing in being true to the first principle, depending on the nature of the specific project and organization:

  • % of stories in backlog that are fully developed (with acceptance criteria), reviewed by team and customer, sized and prioritized – this is my most-used metric especially for relatively new Agile teams because it is an effective gauge to determine the status of the project backlog
  • % of stories (in the backlog) that are assigned to business features (epics) – potentially indicates that requirements are being deconstructed cohesively from features representing business value
  • % of stories (in the backlog) that include business value estimates, not just effort estimates – potentially indicates good partnership with customers or at least focus on customer point of view
  • Cadence of software delivery to production – the lag time between delivery at the end of iteration and deployment to production
  • Frequency / comprehensiveness of automated builds as path towards continuous integration
  • Schedule Performance Index or Agile earned value analysis – concepts transferred from traditional projects but adapted to iterations as described
  • Release Milestone Analysis (planned versus achieved); basically indicates whether the teams are meeting their sprint/release commitments
  • % of stories that roll up to program slices (versions/themes/releases) via project/product roadmap – indicates that the organization has established that implementing Agile must goes beyond just teams
  • % of features that have anticipated and delivered ROI measured
  • % of demos where customers (internal and/or external depending upon project context) attend and where their feedback is captured and acted on

* Please note that many of these metrics were provided and/or recommended by some incredible Agile coaches I’ve met and worked with over the past year. The Agile coaching community has been generous in sharing information and this list is the result of many peoples’ contributions.

I intend to continue this process through the rest of the principles, one principle each week posted on Thursday.


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