What is agility?
Many organizations today describe their operations as agile. At Arter, for example, software development leverages agility in its work through Scrum methodology. And for us, it is equally important to measure agility and its success. Utilizing Scrum and agile methods means that at the core of our operations is the ability to create value by responding quickly to customer needs, in a flexible and customer-oriented manner
Agility can be described in various ways, but fundamentally agile development essentially involves (Luoto 2019)
- Continuous, measurable value for the end customer
- Security of development: the risks are limited and they are borne together
- The most challenging parts are implemented as experiments, which also serve as possibilities for fast learning
- At the heart of everything are motivated and knowledgeable people.
What is Agile success?
In agile development, measurability, for its part, creates security when development can be steered at goal level and results can be measured. Depending on the values your organization chooses, a variety of metrics can be set for the success of agility. At first, the idea of measuring agility may seem difficult. There are many measures, and finding just the right fit for you can prove to be challenging.
So how do you take control of measuring agile success? When searching for the most suitable metrics and measures, you can first examine others and look for examples for your own activities. For example, The Annual State of Agile study examines how agile methods are adopted globally and how to measure the success of agile projects. The following is a compilation of the top 5 tips for measuring agility in the latest research published at the time of writing, from 2018:
1. Customer / User satisfaction
According to the State of Agile survey, customer satisfaction is the most important measure of agility, as 57% of respondents consider it to be one of the most important indicators of agility. Customer or user satisfaction can be measured in many different ways, depending on the organization.
These may include received customer support calls and their resolution, customer satisfaction surveys, finished product features over time, or user statistics of product. We at Arter also emphasize the role of customer cooperation, for example through piloting. Whichever measure you choose, it is a good idea to monitor it regularly so that you can respond to situations in an agile and appropriate way.
2. On-time delivery
55% of survey respondents see timely delivery as an important measure of agility. Measuring this requires constant visibility of what is being done at any given time, since even with agility, one should not forget about systematicity.
Purpose enables agile action, though it also involves accepting change and changing plans when reactions are quick. In this context, “being on time” means, for example, the customer’s expectations of what features they will get and on what schedule. Various forecasts and monitoring of progress will help to measure this.
3. Business value
The value of agility and its success to business is an important indicator for 53% of the respondents. In this respect, business metrics reflect the change that a product or system brings to the business and make it visible.
Business value is generated by ensuring the quality of agile development, and through this, the value that is generated for the customers. The value generated is determined by the company itself. It can be measured, for example, new business creation, improving quality and making operations more efficient. One concrete measure of the business value of an agile project is the rate of return on an investment, which is a simple ratio of the gain from an investment relative to its cost.
Quality is used as a measure of agile development success by 47% of respondents. One of the basic definitions of quality is that it is always compliant. Requirements for quality are first and foremost set by customers, but possibly also by other internal and external stakeholders such as staff and partners.
With agile methods quality is produced through, for example, the product by measuring customer satisfaction, potential defects, and product-specific technical features. In agile teams, trust and a self-directed culture also enable people to take responsibility for quality. Concrete quality is produced, for example, by integrating testing as an integral part of development and coding.
31% of respondents see productivity as an important measure of success. Productivity in agile methods can be measured by monitoring performance rather than actual production. The greatest waste is to produce features that do not help the user or the customer. Tracking the results rather than the output best conveys the value of the agile development team’s work, and the results can be tracked.
The productivity of agile operations and the value of development work come from a culture of continuous improvement, where rapid experimentation also means fast learning. In everyday life, this is reflected in transparency and responsiveness to change, as well as continuous publication.
Luoto (2019) Lean in software development – What and why?