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Using Cycle Time to increase Agile software delivery velocity

Plandek, November 19, 2020

Cycle Time is a critical Agile software delivery metric, it tracks the time taken from work starting on a piece of work until it meets the Definition of Done and helps you to identify bottlenecks in your software development process which will help you to increase velocity, throughput and allow work to flow more smoothly.

Cycle Time should therefore be adopted as a key focus for delivery teams, but cycle time in Jira dashboards and other analytics tools don’t tell you the whole story. In many teams, there is a lot of work that happens outside of Jira, for example, code review and deployment processes. Plandek traces your work from idea to deployment and end to end traceability is vital to optimise your end to end development process.

Plandek provides customised Jira dashboards and Jira reports (combining data from Jira, Git, and CI/CD tools), to allow development teams to closely analyse their own Cycle Time and understand where in the Cycle Time there is an opportunity to drive down time to value.

As you can see in figure 1, Plandek’s Cycle Time metric allows teams to understand the time spent in each stage of the development cycle. The flexible analytics capability and powerful filtering allow breakdown and filtering by Status, Issue Type, Epic (and any other standard or custom ticket field) all plotted over any time range required.

Figure 1. Example Plandek Cycle Time metric view

Delivery Team Leads can analyse their team’s Cycle Time to see where time is spent and bottlenecks may lie.  If the workflow has been well defined in Jira, it is easy to see the proportion of time spent in ‘active’ Jira statuses versus ‘inactive’ Jira statuses within the total Cycle Time using Plandek.

Inactive Jira ticket statuses like “Ready for QA” can be analysed to identify the scope for saving time,  thereby increasing delivery velocity (and reducing the Cycle Time).  Very often the Cycle Time can be significantly reduced without increasing team resources, simply by removing avoidable bottlenecks.

Delivery metrics and engineering metrics that affect Cycle Time

Plandek’s Customer Success team works with the software delivery team to identify key delivery metrics and engineering metrics that have the biggest impact on reducing Cycle Time without impacting software delivery quality or requiring additional resource allocation.

Analysis shows three delivery metrics and engineering metrics that could unlock significant shortening of Cycle Times across almost all scrum teams.  These delivery metrics are not available in standard Jira reporting or Jira dashboards but are available in Plandek’s  customisable dashboards.  These are:

  1. Flow Efficiency (which looks at the proportion of time tickets spend in an ‘active’ versus ‘inactive’ status)
  2. Mean Time to Resolve Pull Requests (hrs)
  3. First Time Pass Rate (%).

Using Cycle Time analysis to increase velocity by 25%

This data-driven approach to continuously improving Cycle Time can be highly effective.

One of Plandek’s clients set an OKR to improve cycle time and achieved a 25% improvement in Cycle Time over the following 6 months in their development team of 2,500 software engineers through the use of Plandek in each team’s daily standups and sprint retrospectives.

Using Plandek, four delivery metrics and engineering metrics were found to directly impact Cycle Time across multiple teams: Flow Efficiency (which looks at the proportion of time tickets spend in an ‘active’ versus ‘inactive’ status);  Mean Time to Resolve Pull Requests (hrs); First Time Pass Rate (%); and Story Points Ready for Development.

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