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How Do You Know You Are Doing Scrum Right?

scrumScrum is one of the most popular and, according to some, the most successful of Agile methodologies. The high performance of Scrum teams has been widely documented, and so it is the primary aim of Scrum Masters to ensure that their teams stay focused, and that Scrum is applied effectively and efficiently. But how do you know if you are doing Scrum right?

A number case studies and accounts of Scrum implementation show that this iterative and incremental Agile software development methodology is a great choice for managing software product development. Stories of Scrum can provide valuable insights on how to make the transition.

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But when it comes to implementing Scrum, stories should be replaced with numbers. The Agile principle essentially says "use whatever works" – and in order to find out what works, you'll have to measure and analyze the performance of your teams. You can't improve what you can't measure. So what metrics can you use the measure and analyze the performance of your Scrum teams?

Metrics to Measure Scrum Success

User stories planned vs user stories delivered (or Planned-to-done ratio)

This is one of the most basic Scrum metrics. Upon sprint reviewsimply compare the number of user stories (story points) committed to in the sprint planning phase to the number completed. Visualizing this data is also a good idea, and easy to do using a Burndown chart.

Burndown charts

The burndown chart is actually a visualization tool rather then a measurement of progress, but an immensely useful one at that. At spring planning, your team will forecast and commit to a batch of work to be done during that sprint. During the sprint, the burndown chart will help you track the completion of the work committed to. The X axis of the chart shows the time, while the Y axis represents the work left to complete. Ideally, your burndown chart will show a consistent downward slope, representing the completion of all forecasted work for that sprint. Burndown charts can also be applied to epics and releases.

Team velocity

A simple and powerful method to measure team performance. Velocity shows the average of delivered features and work per iterations. It is simply calculated by adding up the story points per iteration. Compare velocity across sprints to understand how your team's performance changes over time.

Sprint goal success rate

A more advanced metric is the sprint goal success rate. Essentially, you'll need to look at whether your team produces a working product increment that matches your sprint goal and meets your team's definition of done. Measuring how frequently your team succeeds in the long run can help improve your processes and remove bottlenecks.

Defect metrics

Measuring performance shouldn't only focus on the amount of work delivered. Taking a qualitative approach lets you extend your analysis on the QA aspect of development. Track the number of defects, and when you catch them (during development or after release), and use these insights during retrospective meetings to foster process improvement.

Measuring Business Value

In addition to the above "technical" measurements (e.g. how your team performs from a software development point of view), the business management perspective also requires that you take a look at how all that work helps you compete in the market, and how happy your customers are.

In order to be able to measure business values, the Product Owner, stakeholders and team should work together to determine the main goals, and what measures to use business value. This is key to setting targets and success criteria.

Many organizations use the following general metrics to measure productivity:

  • Time to market
  • Customers satisfaction
  • Return on Investment

Again, understanding how your company and your clients define business value is key: you could have a high-performing Scrum team checking off story points and delivering shippable increments at great speed, but that performance doesn't always translate to business success. Choose the right KPIs and set goals accordingly to really get a picture of just how successful you are, and whether your Scrum teams contribute to that success.

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