Metrics in Agile

Feb 5, 2016 by Svetlana Mukhina


As you know, in Agile it is very important to inspect and adopt your process, and metrics can give you the necessary information to track your way and approach to the necessary destination. There not many metrics that I can advise you to gather on projects, but the most essential ones are capacity, velocity, requirements stability index, and burn-down charts. To my mind, that is the bare minimum and a very useful set. Let’s see how to gather it and what value it can bring to your team.

Capacity. It’s the number of ideal hours available during the next sprint, and it serves as a forecast about the time available to work on task implementation.

It can be used for a few things:

  • To understand how many hours we can really do the work, e.g. write code or do testing. From my experience, I can say that a regular developer doesn’t work more than 5.5h per day.
  • To distribute tasks effectively. There is no point in planning tasks for people on holiday and it does no good to refine or investigate tasks for those who will not take part in the sprint development. You can see from a capacity spreadsheet who will and who will not be present at work during an upcoming sprint.
  • To carry out precise planning. We estimate sub-tasks in hours, and during planning we map it to capacity. If our capacity is 100 hours and the Product Owner is asking us to take on tasks of 150 hours, we can show calculations and explain that 150 hours is defiantly more than 100 hours.

You can use the spreadsheet below to calculate your team capacity:

You may wonder what "load factor" is and what activities are included in it. Here is an example from one of the team. The lists should be formed individually for teams, so I advise using the chronometry procedure, where each team member is writing down all activities they do during the week. Then the team gathers together and sorts out the activities to load and ideal hour lists. The chronometry procedure helps the team clarify and make transparent all activities they are engaged in.

Velocity. It’s the number of story points completed during previous sprint(s).
It can be used to:

  • Track performance and see areas of improvement on a team and individual basis.
  • Form Sprint scope based on experience from previous Sprints.
  • Mitigate hard pushes from Product Owners and Managers when they would like to do extra in-scoping.
  • See that we have technical debt on the project – technical debt does not calculate into velocity, but team time is spent on it

Using velocity statistics, it is also possible to visualize how team estimation is improving (or not) over time. This diagram shows how many story points were completed compared to the ones that had been planned, and it shows a summary of completed story points as well.

Note: Using velocity and capacity together helps to align workload based on past experience and the future availability of development time, while making planning more accurate and results more predictable. In capacity, you plan ideal hours, see who will be on vacation or holidays, and map this information in your average velocity. E.g. if the average velocity of your team is 80 story points and the average capacity is 40 hours per sprint, then when capacity is significantly reduced to 20h (as usually happens during the New Year holidays) the velocity should also be correspondingly decreased to 40sp.

Burn-down. It’s a visual representation of story points burned to a given moment. It allows us to:

  • Forecast our ability to deliver scope in time.
  • Visually see in-scoping and delays in order to be able to de-scope when necessary.
  • Focus on teamwork rather than individual work.
  • Draw as a team, getting everyone involved and taking responsibility.
  • Discovering and removing impediments in time.

Below, you can see a burn-down chart with separate lines for QA and Developers. Please note that it's not a Scrum approach to tracking velocity, as in Scrum we count the entire team as a whole and focus on the whole team’s performance. Although this kind of separation can be done for some exceptional cases, it typically violates Scrum values and rules.

In order to make a burn-down chart more informative, you can add comments to it, describing why certain changes happen. In such a way you can share the burn-down with all stakeholders after a Standup meeting, so they also see not only the resulting progress but also the reasons for increases or decreases in team performance.

If you have several teams working on the same product, you can use individual burn-downs for the teams and a general one for the whole project. Again, make sure that all the teams understand the value of the product and focus not only on their own progress, but also the ‘big picture’ of progress on the project.

The next metric that I found helpful on Agile projects is the Requirements Stability Index. The RSI is used to measure changes in the business requirement added or deleted compared to the original requirements decided on at the start of the Sprint. It is calculated in the following way: Requirement Stability Index = (Total number of original business requirements + Number of requirements changed till date+ Number of requirements added + Number of requirements deleted) / (total number of original requirements)


The team can use RSI to:

  • Understand how much time was spent on re-work.
  • Show the re-work time to PO.
  • Make an argument to keep the sprint scope stable.
  • Persuade the PO to prepare requirements beforehand.

Last but not least, I want to discuss in this post the work log. If the team tracks their time accurately in JIRA or another task/time-tracking system, they can also make use of the gathered data. It can help to:

a) See what types of tasks are usually underestimated

  • Bring it on Retro or lessons learned session
  • In this way, one team has found out they are always late with UI tasks
  • The team got statistics that indicate that tasks that are done via virtual machines takes 30% more time
  • Other team members were able to present bottlenecks in testing to the management

b) To get information on re-opened tasks and investigate the reasons

  • One more team found out the necessity of sanity tests

c) To track personal performance

  • Playing table tennis is not about writing code

Please note that gathering metrics will not make the team work better by itself – the team must analyze the data and then define action items for improvement. Gathering metrics for the sake of gathering metrics is like measuring someone’s temperature and then taking no steps to cure them.

If you use any other metrics on your project and get value from them, I will be happy to hear the details!

Related content

How would cloud improve your firm's regulatory response?


How would cloud improve your firm's regulatory response?

How many of the eight value-addition principles for software delivery do you practice?


How many of the eight value-addition principles for software delivery do you practice?

Managing risks to institutional knowledge


Managing risks to institutional knowledge