Measuring the Impact of your Agile Investments

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Welcome to our new blog series, Measuring the Impact of your Agile Investments. This series focuses on measuring and quantifying the impact that Agile practices have on business outcomes. We’ll explore how putting comparable metrics in place allows organizations to steer improvement efforts in the right direction and realize the biggest payoffs of Agile.

“How do we measure the success of agile?”

It’s one of the most common questions we hear from senior leaders.  And it’s a critically important one for agile evangelists working to justify the organization’s investment in agile and maintain momentum as other priorities compete for leadership attention. The agile community’s typical response to this question has been some form of an agile maturity assessment – such as the Nokia Test. These tools are clear, easy to use and can be extremely effective in helping organizations assess their adherence to good agile practices.  Yet, when used in isolation, they can leave senior leaders unfulfilled – and miss an important opportunity for aligning agile to fundamental objectives.

For business leaders, the question isn’t how well are we doing agile?  The question is how well is agile doing for us?  What impact is agile having on business results? These are the questions senior leaders really want answered.

My response has typically been: “How did you measure your impact on business results before Agile?”

Which is generally met with awkward silence and a muttered admission of: “Not very well.”

The conversation then moves toward why measurement is expensive, why you can’t show progress if you don’t have a baseline, and why you need to be very careful about what and how you measure – lest you create unhealthy behaviors and unintended consequences. Someone ultimately quotes Einstein, we nod our heads thoughtfully, and finally move on to other topics. Crisis averted!

But the question remains: “How do we measure the success of agile?”

And, if Agile Success = Business Success, then the real question is: “How do we measure business success?”

Which is the question we’re beginning this blog series to address.

While every organization will have their own unique objectives and priorities, most can be encapsulated as some combination of these:

  • Productivity
  • Quality
  • Time-to-Market
  • Responsiveness
  • Customer Satisfaction
  • Employee Satisfaction
  • Predictability

In the posts to follow we will examine each of these Business Outcomes and look at:

  • How can we measure the business outcome?
  • What agile practices are effective levers in improving the business outcome?
  • How can we measure our agile levers as leading indicators of improved business outcomes?

The first topic I’ll address in the Measuring Results series is Productivity, because for many leaders, increasing the productivity of the development organization is their primary and overriding goal.