Agile at Scale is characterized by a culture that encourages continuous learning across all levels of an organization and its value streams. Identifying growth opportunities generated by your agile transformation requires accurately assessing individual, team, and organizational performance. But in order to measure your team’s potential and progress, you need a consistent set of metrics.

What are Agile at Scale metrics?

Agile at Scale metrics are the measurements you use to assess the performance, progress, and effectiveness of large-scale agile practices within your organization. These quantifiable metrics — like delivery speed and customer satisfaction — go beyond the scope of individual teams and projects and focus on the broader picture of how you’re applying agile principles across various departments and processes.

There are many metrics and key performance indicators (KPIs) to choose from. Applying the right ones will provide the insight you need to evaluate your company’s capacity at the launch of its agile journey. As your agile practice evolves, these markers will generate the data you need to recognize opportunities to optimize processes, increase workflow efficiency, and promote professional development.

Depending on your agile development methodology, you’ll choose your agile metrics from one of three categories:

  1. Scrum: Scrum environments focus on rapid and predictable product delivery. Team velocity, sprint success metrics, and burndown charts accurately depict the group’s performance, revealing bottlenecks and supporting precise sprint planning and predictable workflow.
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  2. Kanban: Cumulative flow diagrams and throughput metrics allow Kanban-based teams to prioritize essential development tasks by promoting visibility around work in progress (WIP) and project organization.
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  3. Lean: Lead and cycle times help lean working groups ensure a consistent flow of high-quality project deliverables while using the fewest resources possible.

Identifying suitable metrics

There’s no one-size-fits-all recipe for the perfect combination of metrics and KPIs. The right cocktail depends on the unique needs and priorities of each project, and you should evaluate and choose them on a case-by-case basis. Some of the most common for you to consider include:

1. Velocity

Scrums use velocity to compare the amount of work they’ve completed, usually a number of story points, to the number the product owner committed to over a set time period. With every iteration, your predictions about the number of tasks your team will complete in each sprint will grow more accurate. Velocity can also serve as an early warning sign of productivity issues within your team.

It’s important to remember that this metric is team-specific. Every working group will establish story points to suit their individual needs, so weighing one team’s velocity against another’s isn’t a fair comparison.

2. Burndown

A sprint burndown chart shows the amount of planned work a scrum has completed and how much remains at any point in a single sprint. The graph’s Y-axis represents the remaining tasks, while the X-axis represents time. A burndown chart allows you to monitor the team’s progress and the time they need to complete the required workload.

3. Sprint goal success rate

Track the effectiveness of a scrum over an entire project by using the sprint goal success rate to document each time the team completes a sprint according to spec. You should consider a sprint successful when it meets three conditions:

  • The scrum completes all backlog items from the sprint’s to-do list
  • The work meets quality assurance standards, and the team has documented it
  • Each item functions within the expected parameters

By analyzing success and failures, the team can evaluate the sprint planning process to identify gaps in knowledge or talent, deficiencies in process, and other factors affecting the performance so you can make improvements for the next iteration.

4. Cumulative flow

The cumulative flow diagram (CFD) measures work progress according to the project stage: backlog, in progress, review, and complete. Like a burndown chart, the X-axis represents time and the Y-axis represents the number of tasks or story points. A CFD allows your team to visualize roadblocks that slow progress so the project manager can redirect resources to relieve the bottleneck and get the progress back on track.

You want to see a smooth progression from left to right. Any spikes could represent a hang-up that needs addressing. For example, if the backlog grows unchecked, it could mean the product owner needs to remove low-priority or obsolete issues from the list.

5. Throughput

Throughput is an essential agile team metric that measures a working group’s performance by tracking the number of tasks executed within a sprint. With it, you can evaluate your team’s capacity to complete project tasks and how workflow affects overall performance. If throughput levels drop, it suggests an issue affecting team efficiency.

6. Lead and cycle time

Lead time measures how long it takes for a task to move from request to release, indicating the speed of your team’s value chain. The shorter the lead time, the more efficient your development process.

Cycle time designates how long it takes to complete a single story from start to finish. Teams with a shorter cycle time generally have higher throughputs, once again indicating an efficient process.

7. Control Chart

A control chart complements the cycle time metric. It tracks cycle times over the course of an entire project. This measure delivers feedback quickly, allowing teams to continually assess their performance, see real-time changes, and adjust their approach until they achieve the right results.

8. Escaped defects

Mistakes happen, and there will be times when an issue slips through the cracks — it’s inevitable. The escaped defect measure tracks the number of project errors that reach the end user over time. Leveraging this agile quality metric helps your team identify cracks in your quality assurance process and find ways to improve.

Tracking and visualizing metrics

Still not confident about choosing the right metrics? Here are five tips. Whether for project teams, departments, or the entire organization, agile KPIs should be:

  1. Specific: Each measurement should be task or project-specific and offer meaningful data to each team member and manager.
  2. Relevant: Team members must understand how each metric or KPI relates to their performance. This transparency encourages staff to take ownership of their productivity and progress to improve their KPIs.
  3. Timely: Update data in real-time so teams can adapt and adjust to rapid changes in performance and project direction.
  4. Transparent: Metrics and KPIs should be accessible to everyone to support the open communication and collaboration essential to the agile methodology. No one should feel blindsided by their performance feedback.
  5. Actionable: Discuss data with your team and leverage the information to set goals and create an action plan for continuous learning, improvement, and adaptation.

Using metrics for continuous improvement

Metrics provide the foundation of your agile business’ commitment to ongoing betterment. By tracking and analyzing data related to performance at every level — from the individual to the organization — you can optimize performance and deliver higher value to your end users.

Here’s how choosing KPIs benefits your agile company:

  • Individuals — workers will be able to see how their efforts directly impact the outcome of a project. They can use that information to motivate self-improvement and steer professional development.
  • Teams — scrums will gain insight into the efficiency of their process and the quality of their outputs, using them to set realistic KPIs that drive improvement.
  • Stakeholders — metrics provide an objective assessment of a project’s progress, allowing accurate resource allocation and ensuring project priorities align with business objectives.
  • Organization — agile metrics give upper management high-level insight into the effectiveness of scaling efforts and build trust in autonomous teams.

Visualize your projects with Tempo

With so many metrics, creating agile reports can be daunting. Let Custom Charts for Jira from Tempo transform your Agile at Scale metrics into easy-to-read, shareable graphs and charts, taking the stress out of reporting.

Combined with Roadmunk’s project roadmapping capabilities and Structure’s portfolio management platform, you’ll have everything you need to manage your agile projects without breaking a sweat.