Sprint metrics: key questions you should be asking for choosing the right ones
One of the questions that our clients often ask is, “Which metrics should we look at during our sprint retrospectives and daily stand-ups?” With all the metrics available in the Plandek platform, how do you identify what matters most, and what will help make a material difference to your team’s success?
For Scrum teams, there are a few key areas that determine both short and long-term success. Our aim is not only to meet our current sprint goals but also to build and maintain healthy patterns of work and collaboration that will lead to future success.
The key questions you should be asking about your sprint performance are:
- Are we able to meet our commitments/goals reliably?
- Is our work flowing smoothly throughout the sprint?
- Are there any risks emerging that may impact our ability to meet our sprint goals?
- Has this sprint improved our overall delivery performance?
Below we will explore each of these questions further, and provide you with some metrics to help you answer them.
Meeting Sprint Commitments
Dependability is critical these days as more and more organisations adopt Agile to deliver larger programmes of work and/or manage products with significant ties to business planning. The three metrics we recommend are Sprint Completion, Sprint Target Completion, and Sprint Work Added Completion.
Perhaps the most important of the three, Sprint Target Completion looks at the scope you agreed to during sprint planning and tracks how much was completed, showing you how effective the team is at establishing the right priorities and delivering them.
Sprint Work Added Completion focuses only on work that was added to a sprint after it started, whilst Sprint Completion looks at the whole picture, regardless of whether work was planned for the sprint or added afterwards.
If you are like some of our clients who use Sprint Goals to define specific objectives above and beyond the work planned in the Sprint, you may also find this to be a useful metric for your retrospectives.
In sprints, you only have a couple of weeks (sometimes more) to deliver a specific scope of work, so it’s critical that 1) workflows smoothly throughout the sprint, 2) bottlenecks/delays are spotted and addressed immediately, and 3) user/PO feedback is provided to the team as quickly as possible so any issues can be resolved within the sprint.
With Ticket Timeline (see below), you can track how your work is flowing throughout the Sprint, and easily spot any delays or bottlenecks emerging that may potentially put your commitments at risk. It’s incredibly useful in sprint retros and daily stand-ups.
Identifying risk and mitigating it
Whilst Ticket Timeline above is a great way of seeing the impact of risks on delivery, there are several other metrics that we recommend that combat some common challenges teams face.
Whilst we embrace changing priorities, too much change within an active sprint will compromise a team’s ability to deliver effectively (and should raise questions on the planning process). With Ticket Scope, you can track any key tickets being added or removed from a sprint. Great for retros and stand-ups.
New bugs/defects, particularly those from Production, can derail teams very quickly. It’s important to track the arrival of new bugs that can sidetrack teams. Even if bugs aren’t immediately resolved, the triage process may (and often does) distract teams from their core focus on delivering sprint work. We recommend filtering by critical bugs (e.g. P1 and P2), as well as distinguishing between bugs originating from production vs your “QA/UAT” process.
Keeping the ‘big picture’ in mind
We recommend that every organisation has a set of “North Star” or “Golden” metrics they use to measure their overall delivery effectiveness. Sprint retrospectives provide a great opportunity to reflect on how the work delivered in that sprint has contributed to the overall progress against these metrics, especially as some of these metrics cover activities that extend beyond the time box of a sprint.
What it’s all about
Lead time and Cycle time remain two of the most important metrics, as they reflect one of Agile’s core values: the “early and continuous delivery of valuable software”. During each team’s retrospective, they should reflect on how the sprint’s deliverables have impacted the trend over time, and examine where they are opportunities to improve in future sprints.
Where can we improve?
Lead and Cycle time are great metrics to examine overall delivery, but if you are looking to balance that with a view of where you are most and least efficient, Flow Efficiency is the perfect complement. A team can see precisely where they are spending the most inactive time, e.g. ‘Awaiting QA’, ‘To Do’, ‘Awaiting sign-off’, and then agree on some focused actions to reduce this waste in future sprints.
Bringing it all together
We believe that the metrics above should form the backbone of any team’s retrospective, however, they aren’t the only metrics you may want to consider. Teams will face different challenges over time and may have different self-improvement initiatives in flight during their sprints, so any metrics you are using to track these should also be included.
In terms of what you should have in your retrospective versus stand-ups, we believe the answer is pretty simple: the same! If the metrics you chose for a retrospective reflect success for your team, then the stand-up is merely a good opportunity to check your progress against your targets so that you can ensure success, intervening if and where possible.
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