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Agile KPIs: How to measure agile success

Measuring success of agile efforts can be complex. The key is to emphasize value once you’ve established organizational trust.

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The promise of agile development maps well to today’s disruptive, fast-moving business environments. But measuring the success of your agile efforts can be tricky, especially when it comes to ascertaining alignment with business objectives. How do you gauge success or failure? Are you even measuring the correct things?

Any usable metric needs to answer three simple questions, says Dave West, product owner and CEO at Scrum.org: Can I learn something about how I work or the value I deliver from this metric? Can I measure this frequently enough that I can use it to monitor the cause and effect of the changes I make? Does it connect to my purpose or mission?

But before organizations can attempt to answer these questions, they must first assess whether they’re functioning in an agile way, says Jeff Dalton, CEO of Broadsword Solutions. Here, going back to the basics of agile is essential. And for Dalton, every agile metric that matters can be traced back to trust. Most organizations that claim agility are not high-trust, which leads to a breakdown in being able to align metrics with business priorities, he says.

“The entire goal of agile is to gain trust and be trusted,” Dalton says. Before drilling down to more granular metrics, he says, you first have to address five questions: “‘Do we have an agile culture? Are we credible in the eyes of our own teams, managers and customers? Are we doing the best we can to meet our commitments? And are we producing quality products and services? And are we showing the outside world our best?’” Dalton says. The answers to those questions, he says, tell a manager everything they need to know.

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