Agile KPIs: 7 Key Metrics Every Project Manager Use for Benchmarking - 7pace
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Published:Nov 15, 2022

Agile KPIs: 7 Key Metrics Every Project Manager Use for Benchmarking

Velocity chart

It’s a constant challenge not to lose sight of the bigger picture. 

When you’re responsible for managing the performance of an entire development team, it’s easy to get bogged down by useless metrics and unnecessary micromanagement that serves only to make the development process more difficult. 

But just to be clear, there is a bigger picture. 

At its essence, the agile framework is about continuous improvement through science-backed and data-driven initiatives. That means using actual data to enable your development team to be their most productive selves. 

You’re not tracking data and measuring performance just for the sake of it! The goal is to provide actionable insights.

Let’s take a look at the most important agile KPIs that can help you do just that for your team. This guide will provide you with a comprehensive list of performance benchmarks and best practices to improve your agile workflow.

What Are Agile KPIs? Key Terms You Should Know

Agile KPIs, also called agile metrics, are different tools used for measuring the productivity and success of an agile team. 

KPI stands for Key Performance Indicator. KPIs can range from general performance metrics like velocity and burndown to more development-specific measurements like code coverage and time to market.

Each of these metrics provides a unique perspective into your team’s performance. If you combine them properly, they can give you detailed and actionable insights to help improve your project management skills and techniques.

Before we take this any further, let’s take a look at some common terms that you should know when discussing agile metrics:

  • Agile: An iterative approach to software development that helps tackle projects more efficiently by breaking them down into smaller tasks.
  • Scrum: A structured framework used by agile project managers and development teams to improve performance through continuous feedback. 
  • Sprint: Sprints are time-boxed periods where development teams try to complete a set amount of work.
  • Story: User stories or story points are the smallest unit of work in the agile methodology, used to refer to a single feature or bug that has to be tackled by the development team.
  • Backlog: A complete list of deliverables for any given project, sorted in order of priority.
  • Kanban: A visual framework for managing work in the correct order of priority.
  • DevOps: A set of practices that unites development and operations teams for better management of the entire software lifecycle.

Up next, let’s talk about the most important agile metrics and performance benchmarks that you should consider as a project lead.

Agile metrics and KPIs: which should you choose?

Agile Metrics and KPIs You Should Know About

There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to agile project management. It’s about finding the right framework that works for your team by combining elements from different philosophies like scrum, lean, and kanban. That’s why there’s no single set of KPIs that you should be tracking for your development team. Instead, you must find the right combination of metrics that fit your team’s workflow. That said, here’s a list of common metrics to choose from in agile:

Velocity

One of the most essential agile metrics to track is your team’s velocity. It’s the average amount of work that a development team completes in a single sprint. Think of it as a measure of your team’s typical rate of progress.

Velocity is usually measured in the total number of hours logged or story points completed from one sprint to the next. It can prove very useful to project managers and team leads when making forecasts regarding the time and budget required to complete a project. 

By recording your team’s velocity from one project to another, you can craft an estimate of the amount of effort it would require to take on a new project or assignment. The more velocity data you have, the more likely it is that your forecast will be accurate.

Burndown Rate

Burndown refers to the rate at which a development team works through the different story points in their project backlog. Like velocity, it’s a measure of your rate of progress. You might even say that velocity is the slope of your burndown chart.

Your burndown rate can be calculated in a number of ways. Sprint burndown refers to the number of backlog items tackled in a sprint. Epic and release burndowns, on the other hand, calculate the rate of progress in development over a larger body of work.

By plotting your burndown rate from one work sprint or epic to the next on a graph, you get the sprint burndown chart. This chart helps you catch a bird’s eye view of your team’s productivity from project to project.

Cumulative Flow

The cumulative flow diagram is one of the most important metrics in the kanban methodology. It’s a graph that tracks the number of work items at different stages of the development cycle at any given point. 

The y-axis represents the number of work items whereas the x-axis represents your time frame. Slopes of different colors represent the number of work items that are done, to do, and in progress at any point in time. A smooth cumulative flow diagram indicates that the amount of work done from one point in time to the next is consistent, whereas bubbles and gaps indicate the presence of bottlenecks that make your team’s output inconsistent and unreliable.

Throughput

Where velocity measures your team’s rate of progress per sprint, throughput simply counts the number of work items completed per unit of time. Throughput can be used to measure your rate of progress per iteration or just for a single week. 

Throughput is measured in story items or working hours. Like velocity, it also helps project managers in making forecasts and estimates for their development team.

Lead Time

This is an important metric specifically for teams following the lean or kanban methodologies. Lead time measures the time taken by a project or work item to go through the entire production and delivery cycle. Whereas velocity and throughput measure progress from a top-level perspective, lead time helps you get granular and specific about the time and effort required to complete a task.

Code Coverage

Code coverage is an agile metric specific to software development. It’s used to determine how much of your source code has been tested for bugs. 

There are different ways to measure code coverage, such as functional coverage, statement coverage, and line coverage. They offer various ways to see how much of your code has been tested and found bug-free. 

Code coverage is measured in terms of items tested, items found, or coverage percentage. It’s very useful for development teams tracking progress on a new software product, especially when it comes to quality assurance.

Time to Market

Another important metric for development teams and product owners is time to market, which is the time it takes for an agile software development project to go from a rough idea to a finished product. 

While it’s generally advisable to try and reduce your time to market, you shouldn’t be doing it at the cost of product quality. Instead, use data to measure your estimated time to market before the onset of a project to accurately calculate deadlines and costs.

How to Prioritize the Right Agile Metrics for Your Team

So, how do you choose the right set of agile metrics to track for your team? The key is to focus on the most important ones instead of just tracking every KPI under the sun. Here are a few tips and tricks to help you prioritize:

  • Ensure that each metric is clearly defined so that your entire team is on the same page and unnecessary confusion can be avoided. 
  • Choose a combination of metrics that paint a complete picture instead of providing a one-dimensional perspective into your team’s productivity. Agile metrics should always be evaluated together as they won’t tell the whole story otherwise. 
  • Agile metrics should be tracked by the appropriate member of the team. While some of them are better off being tracked by the project manager or team lead, others need direct input from the developers to be completely accurate. 
  • KPIs and metrics should lead to improvement for your entire team and enable them to be better at their jobs. However, expecting improvement without offering up the proper resources is a good way to ensure failure.
  • Make sure that you have a reliable means for measuring and calculating the metrics you choose to track for your team. 

Metrics should always align with your workflow. If you’re using a particular framework like scrum or lean, make sure to pick and choose the metrics that fit that framework.

Agile metrics should be clearly defined, evaluated together, role-spesific, actionable, easy to measure, and workflow aligned

Time Is the Most Essential KPI for Agile Development

Regardless of your workflow and framework, time is the one metric that no agile team can afford not to pay attention to. Every project has deadlines, and for those deadlines to be met, you must regularly track and measure the time taken by your team to complete development tasks.

The purpose of tracking time isn’t just to get your work completed faster. In fact, the best way to make use of time-tracking data is to use it to make better forecasts so that you can establish better deadlines and calculate project costs. 

But, historical data is the only way to make accurate forecasts. Without a reliable means to track your development hours, it’ll be impossible to calculate things like velocity and throughput.

Time trackers make it easy for developers to log their working hours so that project managers have access to every bit of historical data on their team’s performance. As the project lead, you’re able to see exactly how much time your team has spent on a specific product or feature, leading to much more accurate forecasts when it comes to future projects of the same nature.

There’s no escaping it: software developers need a good time-tracking app. 

Track Development Time Natively With 7pace

If you’re a software developer or project manager working in Azure DevOps or GitHub, 7pace is a time tracker that lets you log hours natively within your development environment

That means no more going back and forth between apps just to track time! Of course, there are other advantages to a time-tracking app that’s fully integrated with your development platform: 

For one, you’ll always have access to even more granular data on the time spent on each and every development task. For example, 7pace for GitHub lets you visualize the number of hours spent per issue, milestone, and project.

As a project manager, you’ll also be able to access all the data analysis on your team’s performance directly within your development platform, doing away with the need for third-party clients and applications. With an integrated API, it’s also possible to connect this data to a variety of other tools and platforms.
Want to see it all in action? Try 7pace today for Azure DevOps or GitHub!

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