Plandek backlog health metric of the week: Story Points Ready for Development
Story Points Ready for Dev is a key Agile software delivery metric as it is an important measure of backlog health.
For Agile software delivery to work effectively there must be a constant flow of work through development teams. As such sufficient tickets must be prepared and ‘Ready’ in the backlog, to ensure that teams are fully utillised (whether under a Scrum Agile or Kanban Agile methodology).
Tickets defined as ‘Ready’ should have four attributes:
- an accurate description
- prioritisation (or order)
- an effective estimate (whether in story points or another method); and
- Acceptance Criteria included to confirm the Definition of Done.
Story Points Ready for Dev as the name suggests shows the total number of Story Points residing within tickets that are currently in the ‘Ready’ status. For teams not using Story Points, ticket count can be a useful alternative so long as the throughput of tickets is known and a reliable measure.
Typically, in a Scrum Agile environment teams would expect to have Story Points Ready for Dev equating to 2 times team velocity. Velocity is defined as the amount of Story Points typically completed within a sprint. As such a healthy backlog would be defined as one that contains tickets ready for development equating to 2 sprints of work.
Example Story Points Ready for Dev chart – Plandek Backlog Health metrics dashboard
The Story Points Ready for Dev drill-down chart below shows how Team Leaders would typically analyse the metric. It shows the total Story Points Ready for Dev as it changes over time and also shows the metric by Board.
Example Story Points Ready for Dev drill-down chart – Plandek Backlog Health metrics dashboard
Story Points Ready for Dev is a key backlog health metric. Other backlog health metrics that are relevant to be viewed in tandem include:
- Story Backlog Distribution – which shows the overall distribution of tickets in the backlog and the ticket statuses in which they sit (e.g. ‘In Design’, ‘Ready’, ‘In Refinement’ etc), helping teams understand where work is in the process if indeed a shortfall is imminent.
- Time to Design Stories – shows the time taken to design stories in the backlog (typically broken down between time taken ‘In Design’ and ‘Pending Design Sign Off’). Or in other words, how long the team needs to replenish a shortfall.
Key use cases
Story Points Ready for Dev is a very useful Backlog Health metric to help teams work effectively by ensuring that they always have a healthy backlog of tickets on which to start work.
As a rule of thumb Story Points Ready for Dev should equate to 2 times team Velocity and therefore represent 2 Sprints worth of work to do. As such, Story Points Ready for Dev is a core Agile metric and is often included as part of a broader ‘balanced scorecard’ of Agile delivery metrics as it is relevant both at Team level and when aggregated across Teams and shown relative to average Velocity.
Maintaining a healthy level of Story Points Ready for Dev is critical to effective Agile software delivery. The core objective of Agile delivery is after all “the early and continuous delivery of valuable software”. And this is simply not possible without a healthy and well-prepared backlog ready for the Teams to get stuck into.
Maintaining Story Points Ready for Dev at 2 times Velocity will ensure that teams can continuously work on new tickets and deliver value.
However, it is not optimal if Story Points Ready for Dev levels start to go much higher than 2 times Velocity, as this starts to impose inflexibility on Teams and Agile projects, contrary to the fundamental aims of Agile delivery.
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