Analyzing Statistics for Success on an Agile Project
Ask any number of traditional software project managers how they measure their team’s progress and you’ll undoubtedly be given a “percentage completed” or a project health color of red, yellow, or green. Too many managers consider any project that’s delivered on-time and on-budget to be a success. However, what if a project that’s finished on time and under budget doesn’t satisfy the customer’s needs? What if it isn’t what they expected? Can it truly be called a success?
It’s been 10 years since the inception of the Agile Manifesto. However, after a decade of finding new and improved ways to develop software, organizations adopting agile still have trouble understanding new metrics. Why use old, outdated reporting metrics with a revamped software development system? The Agile Manifesto instructs readers to value working software and to provide it to customers frequently. It’s essential to release regular updates of the development process containing relevant information.
In adopting agility, many companies tend to want to use the velocity metric since it is based around historical data. What many organizations fail to recognize is that velocity is not intended to be used as a reporting metric. Instead, velocity should be used as a planning metric that estimates the amount of work that can be dedicated to an iteration of a project. Presenting velocity to a client does nothing to show them the quality of the work, and therefore it provides no real business value.
Another commonly used metric is “percentage complete.” Burndown charts essentially express the same information by showing the amount of work remaining relative to the end of an iteration’s development. If the chart’s line looks to be trending the wrong way, it can force the “right” conversations earlier in the process. Is the iteration goal in danger of not being completed, or worse, has the team encountered a problem preventing them from finishing the project? The burndown chart is too often used the incorrect way; it should not be seen as a gauge of how the team is performing. It is intended to provide clarity and to force the “right” conversation between the client and project team as early in the development process as possible. Employing agile methodology means the organization should support developers and assist them in meeting iteration goals by addressing obstacles and responding to impeding issues as they develop.
The Agile Manifesto tells readers that “working software is the primary measure of progress.” Traditional metrics can’t provide enough information to be considered applicable any longer. Project health colors don’t let clients see enough information to provide any true business value. Regular project measurement is a critical asset to project leaders and clients alike, and even ten years after agility has been popularized, it’s still crucial to learn and adapt to the latest progress metrics available in order to provide the best and smoothest software development process possible.
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