Revised edition 2023
The Ultimate Guide to Software Delivery and Engineering Metrics
10. Engaging the internal customer – software delivery metrics for the C-Suite
A key challenge for all technology leaders is building a strong relationship with internal stakeholders and customers.
Often, senior stakeholders view technology delivery as a ‘black box’. It incurs a lot of costs and is strategically critical – but is very little understood. As a result, CTOs may find it difficult to build dialogue, understanding and trust.
This chapter focuses on a simple set of reporting and metrics for the CTO to greatly improve the quality of interaction with internal stakeholders at the OpCo and C-Suite levels.
Common problems with existing stakeholder reporting
There is a very common theme among senior leadership operational meetings.
Sales, Marketing, Operations, Finance, etc., provide data-rich analytics and KPIs for review, and C-Suite leaders become very experienced in understanding and reviewing the KPIs and performance of these areas.
In contrast, technology delivery often lacks a ‘balanced scorecard’ of metrics for review and discussion. As a result, the C-suite’s understanding of ‘performance’ within technology delivery often remains limited.
Technology delivery reporting is often reduced to a series of project Gantt charts and related ‘RAG’ (Red, Amber, Green) reports.
These show progress to plan but in no way build an understanding of value delivery, effectiveness and ‘performance’.
We may be ‘on plan’, but critical questions remain unanswered – for example:
- How efficiently are we delivering value and ROI?
- Indeed, are we good at software delivery? And are we getting better over time?
- And for example, how does our offshore capability compare to our onshore?
- And how do we relate, relative to other organisations similar to ours?
- Could money be better spent on technology delivery?
Simple metrics for shared understanding – the metrics that the CTO should provide the C-Suite
This section focuses on improving the CTO’s reporting and dialogue with C-Suite stakeholders. It assumes that the existing progress reporting (Gantt charts and RAG reports on key technology delivery initiatives) will continue.
However, CTOs should also provide additional reporting on value delivery effectiveness. As such, it is helpful for a CTO to think about answering two critical questions when reporting on technology delivery to senior stakeholders. Both questions relate to efficient value delivery and are shown in Figure 26:
- Is our technology team focused on our highest priority/value-creating initiatives? i.e. is it aligned with our strategic goals/roadmap?
- And if so, is our technology team delivering as efficiently as possible?
Focus metrics and analytics for stakeholders
Focus (or Strategic Alignment) analytics demonstrate to stakeholders that finite software delivery resource is efficiently focused on strategic priorities – the first key challenge in optimising software delivery ROI (value maximization).
As Figure 27 below illustrates, typically, a very significant proportion of available technology resources is not actually focused on building new features. Instead, it gets diverted away from unplanned work (e.g. fixing bugs) and less productive areas of planned work (e.g. addressing technical debt or managing risk).
An analytics platform like Plandek enables CTOs to easily track and report to stakeholders on this resource ‘focus’ question to show clearly:
- Total resource allocation and output by strategic priority (or Value Stream);
- Total resource allocation and output by Planned and Unplanned work category;
- Of unplanned work – the makeup of this work – e.g. bugs and critical incidents;
- Of planned work – the makeup of this work – e.g. new features versus technical debt;
- Therefore, the overall proportion of resources and output accounted for by value-creating planned new feature delivery.
Plandek enables CTOs to express 1-5 by work done (tickets or story points); headcount, or cost. Example reports are shown in Figure 28 below.
Effectiveness metrics and analytics for stakeholders
Having demonstrated ‘delivery focus’ to stakeholders – the graphics below demonstrate the effectiveness/efficiency of the finite available resource.
This combination of focus and effectiveness simply communicates to stakeholders that the delivery team is doing all it can to maximise value delivery and deliver on shared strategic priorities.
The metrics to demonstrate ‘effectiveness’ are carefully selected to be a meaningful and balanced representation of effectiveness (following the ‘balanced scorecard’ principle) and crucially understandable by non-tech literate stakeholders within the C-suite.
Figure 29 below shows our suggested metrics set.
Figure 30 below shows Plandek enables you to present these metrics in annotated form to explain the narrative to C-suite stakeholders.
There is very often a key need for CTOs to improve the communication between delivery teams and their stakeholders at the C-suite level.
Senior stakeholders typically see software delivery teams as a ‘black box’ that they little understand and sometimes distrust. They see money and resources being put in, and over time, some deliverables popping out (often not to the agreed timing plan).
Progress reporting in the form of Gantt charts and RAG reports does little to improve their understanding of the underlying effectiveness of the delivery capability.
A clear communication of the delivery team’s ‘focus’ and ‘effectiveness’ will hugely improve the communication and create constructive dialogue between stakeholders and the hard-working delivery team.