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What’s Different About Agile Metrics?

What’s Different About Agile Metrics? Are metrics really consistent with Agile at all?

Agile Metrics

Different Views of Metrics

Metrics play a different approach in an Agile environment that is important to understand; however,

  • Metrics will be directly related to the level of planning and the project approach and
  • The project approach should fit the nature of the project

Customizing Metrics to Fit the Project

Metrics should be well-aligned with the success criteria for the project and need to be customized to fit the project. There are a number of factors that influence the need for metrics.

Impact of the Project Approach on Metrics

The project methodology and the success criteria for the project is likely to have a big impact on metrics. As a result, you’re likely to see very different types of high-level project metrics in an Agile project.

  • In a traditional plan-driven project, metrics are heavily used to show how closely the project is tracking against cost and schedule goals. As a result, you might see a dashboard with red/yellow/green status indicators that signify the amount of variation from budget and schedule goals
  • In an Agile environment, there is typically more focus on producing results. For that reason, a burn-down or burn-up chart might be a good way to show the performance of the project in producing results

Metrics Are a Form of Project Communications

Metrics are a form of project communications:

  • In a traditional plan-driven environment, communications are typically more limited and formal, as well as more controlled
  • In an Agile environment, the stakeholders are much more heavily engaged in the project on an ongoing basis. There is also lots of emphasis on openness and transparency

The impact is that Agile needs less extensive metrics to keep people informed of what’s going on in the project. In an Agile project, stakeholders should have direct, first-hand knowledge of what’s going on in the project without extensive metrics.

Metrics Should Support Decision-making

There is a different need for decision-making that will also impact metrics:

  • In a traditional plan-driven environment, management typically has to get engaged in projects at a much lower level. They need to make decisions related to resolving issues, assigning additional resources, etc.
  • Agile companies delegate more responsibility to empowered, self-organizing teams. As a result, there is less need for management to get engaged in tactical project decisions

Different levels of empowerment will cause a significant difference in the metrics needed at different levels:

  • Senior managers will be less heavily-engaged in tactical project decisions
  • That should enable them to focus more heavily on more strategic issues

Overall Summary

Metrics in an Agile environment will probably be very different and more limited; however,

  • Metrics still have value in an Agile environment
  • They should be customized to fit the project

Additional Resources

You will find much more detail on this in my Online Agile Project Management Training.

2 thoughts on “What’s Different About Agile Metrics?”

  1. Michael Hurst

    Chuck makes three extremely good points that are worth remembering. I would add that Agile projects are in fact metric driven by story sizing, prioritizing into an order and time table for development and (typically) displaying graphically by their stage of “doneness.” The key is to have metrics relevant to the need at the team level, program level, “delivery stream” level, corporate level and probably other constituencies. Each has their own relevant need for metrics in order to understand progress in their own terms. In my opinion the role of a PMO is to understand the constituency perspectives and act as a facilitator (and sometimes be the creator) for developing these various reports in a way that utilizes the data already being produced to minimize impact on actual Agile (or traditional) teams. So it really isn’t a “project method” defining metrics but rather a reflection of different constituent needs making use of the metrics from different methods.

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