How to Evaluate Your Agile Practices

In business, when you have more revenue flowing in than money going out, it’s a general marker of success. This is a fairly straightforward measurement to follow, but not all initiatives are this simple to monitor. The agile development process is a significant change from traditional workflows and has more fluid expectations. Although agile testing methodologies and development practices have made names for themselves, many organizations are unsure how to gauge their effectiveness. Let’s take a closer look at how to evaluate your agile practices and ensure you’re maximizing their potential advantages.

Team-specific productivity

Start first with the easiest metrics to gauge. Organizations should look at lines of code produced, time, cost and function points that occurred during each sprint. This will be a major indicator for how productive the team has been in that particular timeframe and can also show how well each project is progressing. CEB Global noted that it will be critical to look at teams on an individual basis, rather than comparing groups to each other. Each team has a different makeup, system type and programming language to work with, so their levels will vary. What truly matters here is whether each team improves over time. This type of change can demonstrate the presence of more effective collaboration efforts and capable tools. Any dip could indicate the need of additional support as well as potential roadblocks within operations.

Desired outcomes vs realized outputs

The problem with many agile evaluations is that teams are simply measuring and working toward the wrong things. TechRepublic contributor Larry Maccherone gave the example of two NBA players who were high scorers because they took more shots, but didn’t always have the best chance of scoring. In fact, their teams often won less when they were in the game because the percentage of shots that went in the basket was significantly less than the number of shots they made. By focusing on the outcome of your initiative instead, you can create better decisions to get you to achieve your goal. You will also be able to establish more comprehensive measures to determine your success and identify any areas that need improvement.

Value and timely delivery

Organizations operate on a tight schedule, and many expect their software development teams to do the same. Agile, along with automation integration, has made it possible to release deliverables on a daily or weekly basis, when it used to take months or years to publish an application. Teams can evaluate their agile product development based on if they are delivering value and whether they are adhering to the timelines they’ve established. InfoQ contributor Sean McHugh noted that these metrics will measure the impact the software is making as well as how accurately team can forecast their sprints. For example, if a team expects to make five stories and delivers five stories, they will earn points toward this metric. Any deviation from anticipated outputs will result in less points and show potential areas that need improvement.

“Ideally your product owner will prioritize higher value items towards the top of the backlog and thus each sprint will deliver the maximum value possible,” McHugh wrote. “If you’re working on a finite project with a definite end in sight, your sprints will start out very high value and gradually trend towards delivering less and less value as you get deeper into the backlog.”

Agile practices can be tricky to accomplish. By observing these metrics, you’ll be able to evaluate your own success at implementing this initiative and can begin strategizing for how to use it effectively.


Teams can be gauged on their productivity.

Sanjay Zalavadia
As the VP of Client Service for Zephyr, Sanjay brings over 15 years of leadership experience in IT and Technical Support Services. Throughout his career, Sanjay has successfully established and grown premier IT and Support Services teams across multiple geographies for both large and small companies. Most recently, he was Associate Vice President at Patni Computers (NYSE: PTI) responsible for the Telecoms IT Managed Services Practice where he established IT Operations teams supporting Virgin Mobile, ESPN Mobile, Disney Mobile and Carphone Warehouse. Prior to this Sanjay was responsible for Global Technical Support at Bay Networks, a leading routing and switching vendor, which was acquired by Nortel. Sanjay has also held management positions in Support Service organizations at start-up Silicon Valley Networks, a vendor of Test Management software, and SynOptics.