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February 27, 2010

Measure Agile Projects with KPIs

In this blog, we've been primarily exploring complex project performance methods and using BI to do so. This covers areas such as earned value, resource utilization and portfolio management. Those areas of PPM tend to get minimizalized in Agile projects.

Now let's start a high-level look at measuring KPIs and performance of software development teams that practice Agile development methodologies.

This blog is BI PPM and project managers play an important role on agile software development project as well. It is a slightly different role and there is a big difference in terms of requirements analysis & validation, up-front planning and progressive schedule elaboration.

So, naturally, KPIs that you will use in your scorecards to measure Agile teams will be different. Here I will focus on looking at team & project performance based on their primary work increments called iterations. These are also not meant to get into the weeds of classic software engineering KPIs measured by a development manager or Scrum Master such as bugs or defects and we won't consider an Agile project manager as someone to track a burndown log.

1. Velocity: Based on estimations, this will tell you how much the team will be able to deliver per iteration (typically 30 days). After the first couple of Sprints, you will be able to use that history to improve your benchmarks.

2. Number of Iterations to Complete: I think of this as a sort of ETC for Agile projects, based on time instead of cost. Use the total size of the product backlog and put that over the velocity to determine how many iterations are remaining to complete the project.

3. Number of backlog items validated: Use this to help align the progress of the project to the strategic objectives (aka portfolio KPIs) to ensure that the team is satisfying the commited backlog items and not sneaking in too much skunkworks. This will help you to make a case should you need to do the unthinkable: recommend a Sprint cancelation.

Agile101 makes some good points that measuring remaining scope and time to complete (velocity) misses out on the areas that EVM covers such as impact to costs and this also focuses solely on the team's ability to deliver against the clock, not quality.

Here are 2 very good sources for more reading on Agile project management and measuring performance on Agile projects:

From VersionOne and ccpace.

Posted by Mark Kromer at February 27, 2010 11:30 PM

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