What are agile metrics?

The spirit of agile development is incremental, ongoing improvement — something that every agile team wants to embrace. But embracing this idea and implementing it are two different things. How do you know if your iterations are making an impact? How can you ensure you are providing more product value to customers over time?

This is where both quantitative and qualitative data comes in. Agile metrics help agile teams set benchmarks, measure against goals, and evaluate performance. Agile metrics typically assess productivity, predictability, quality, or value in some way.

The metrics you choose will vary based on your goals, organization, and development team. For example, the most common agile metrics for scrum teams are burndown and velocity — while kanban teams typically track cycle time, throughput, and work in progress (WIP). But in this guide, you will also find plenty of methodology-agnostic metrics to choose from.

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Why do agile metrics matter?

Agile metrics help you keep a pulse on agile development. By tracking clear metrics for output, quality, and satisfaction (among internal and external stakeholders), you can better spot opportunities for improvement. Predictability metrics also help you plan work with greater accuracy and avoid guesswork about bandwidth.

Besides being an effective agile health monitor, agile metrics can help you track progress towards your goals. It is common among agile teams to establish performance standards based on agile metrics (which you might refer to as "agile KPIs"). Agile KPIs offer a quantifiable way to show if you have improved — and demonstrate your success.

Agile metrics are often represented in numbers, reports, and charts. But ultimately, the story they tell is about people. This is important — at the core of any agile success is the team. Metrics reflect effort, contribution, and perhaps even tradeoffs you have made in priorities or investments. The right metrics signal areas of strength and weakness — ideally they should promote transparency, highlight achievements, and spark conversations on how the team can improve.

How to choose agile metrics for your team

In the list below, we have defined nearly 40 agile metrics — but in practice, you may only need a handful. Select metrics that clearly map to your goals and that you can commit to improving as a team. Here are some considerations for choosing which agile metrics to track:

Metrics should be clearly defined
It is difficult to make measurable improvements based on a confusing jumble of numbers. Make sure the team understands what each metric means and how it will be tracked.

Metrics should be comprehensive
Choose a set of agile metrics that covers a breadth of agile performance — predictability, productivity, quality, and value.

Metrics should be evaluated together
A single agile metric does not paint a full picture. For example, an increasing throughput metric indicates high productivity on the team — a positive result. But coupled with a low Net Promoter Score, it is clear that you are not delivering enough value despite the high volume of completed tasks. Examining these metrics together provides a more realistic view of your performance.

Metrics should have assigned ownership
Certain metrics will be monitored on a leadership or business level while others will be tracked by your development team. What matters is that each metric has a dedicated owner to ensure responsibility for reporting is clear.

Metrics should instigate improvement
Reviewing metrics is not a passive activity. When you choose to track an agile metric, make sure to consider how you will actively work to improve on it and how you will define success.

Metrics should be trackable
Do not commit to complicated metrics without a reliable way to measure them. Dig in to see if your agile development tool supports the metrics you want to use.

Metrics should align with your methodology
Some agile methods like scrum, kanban, and the Scaled Agile Framework® (SAFe®) have built-in metrics — though teams following these methodologies often track broader business metrics as well. If you do not subscribe to one agile methodology, you have more freedom to pick and choose the metrics that make sense for you.

Related:

37 agile metrics for development teams

The list below includes a wide range of agile metrics for tracking progress, productivity, and performance — grouped by category and methodology. Think of it as a compendium, not a prescriptive list, and choose metrics that are meaningful for your organization and development team.

Agile business metrics

Many agile teams use broader business indicators to gauge overall performance and product quality. While the agile team may not directly own or collect data for these metrics, they represent the core agile values of customer satisfaction, value delivery, and flexibility. Following these metrics will help you determine if your organization is embodying agile principles.

Customer satisfaction score (CSAT)

A broad term that encompasses any survey or question that evaluates customer satisfaction. Generally customers rank their satisfaction with your product or business on a scale (e.g. 1-10 or 1-5 stars). Your CSAT score will be an average of all responses.

CSAT is typically owned by company leadership.

Delivery speed

Average measure of how long it takes the agile team to complete different types of work (e.g. new features or bug fixes).

Net Promoter Score (NPS)

Based on a single question that asks customers how likely they are to recommend your product to another person — an indicator of quality and value. Answers are submitted on a 0–10 scale from "not likely" to "very likely."

NPS is typically owned by company leadership.

Planned-to-done ratio

Predictability metric that measures the amount of work assigned to an individual or team against the work completed in a given time period.

Team happiness

Happiness metrics evaluate agile team satisfaction and morale. Similar to CSAT, happiness metrics are often posed as a ranking on a scale.

Team turnover

Indirect indicator of team happiness. Turnover refers to the rate at which agile team members leave the company and must be replaced.

Value delivery

Value may seem abstract — but it can be measured along with any other product aspect. Assign value to tasks with money, points, or a scorecard to track how much is completed and delivered to customers over time.

Value delivery is typically owned by company or product leadership.

An example of a product value scorecard created in Aha! software.

Methodology-specific agile metrics

Some of the most common agile metrics you will encounter are related to specific methodologies like scrum, kanban, and SAFe®. But metrics like burndown, velocity, and work in progress are just as popular among teams that do not follow one specific methodology.

Scrum metrics

Burndown

Tracks development team progress within the current work period, typically a sprint. Also referred to as "sprint burndown," it shows the amount of work completed against the amount of work remaining — measured in time, story points, or number of tasks.

Burndown is represented as a trend line on a burndown chart.

Velocity

Average amount of work completed in a given time frame, typically a sprint. Velocity helps agile development teams plan sprints, predict future milestones, and estimate a realistic rate of progress.

Workload distribution

Measure of how much work is assigned to each scrum team member for the current sprint.

An example of a burndown chart created in Aha! Develop.

Kanban metrics

Blocked time

Tally of tasks in progress that are reliant on issues or dependencies being resolved — and currently "blocked." Blocked time helps you understand any setbacks that occurred during a work period.

Control chart

Visualization of the amount of time spent working on different features during a work period — informed by cycle time and lead time. Control charts help kanban teams predict future performance.

Cumulative flow diagram

Visualization of completed work over time, similar to a burnup chart. Cumulative flow diagrams use color-coding to represent different statuses (e.g., in progress, done, in backlog).

Cycle time

Time spent actively working on a feature from start to finish, including time spent on reopened issues. Cycle time is one of the most common kanban metrics.

Lead time

Total time a task exists — from the moment it is created until work is completed.

Queue length

Number of items in a column on the kanban board. Queue length provides a view of how many items are sitting in each column over time.

Throughput

A measure of work progress in a given time frame. It is essentially the same as velocity — but is measured by the number of tasks rather than time or story points. Throughput is one of the most common kanban metrics.

Work in progress (WIP)

Number of tasks that have been started but not completed. WIP is one of the most common kanban metrics.

Work item age

Time a task has existed from when it was created to the current point in the work period. While cycle time and lead time measure work that has been completed, work item age looks at work still in progress.

An example of a cycle and lead time report created in Aha! Develop.

Related:

SAFe metrics

Competency

Complex measurement of the organization's commitment and follow-through on the core competencies of SAFe.

Flow distribution

Amount of different types of work (e.g. new features versus bug fixes) completed over time.

Flow efficiency

Measurement of the active and non-active time required to complete tasks. For example, if your flow efficiency is 20%, then work items spend 80% of the time waiting for review, approval, testing, etc.

Flow load

Total work in progress across all stages — similar to WIP in kanban.

Flow predictability

Aggregate measure of how well agile teams are able to meet their objectives.

Flow time

Total time a feature exists from initial creation to customer delivery — similar to lead time in kanban.

Flow velocity

Number of items completed in a given time period — similar to throughput in kanban.

Agile engineering and code metrics

Some agile teams (especially those practicing DevOps and continuous delivery) also look at code metrics. These engineering metrics give deeper insights into the technical aspects of quality and productivity.

Code coverage

Number of lines of code that have been covered by your tests, expressed as a percentage (the higher, the better). Code coverage is also referred to as "test coverage."

Code quality

Measurement of "good" and "bad" quality code. Code quality is subjective and defined by your agile development team.

Code review time

Time it takes to complete code reviews. As a productivity metric, many teams set goal windows for code review time.

Defect resolution time

Time it takes to fix identified defects. Most engineering teams set a goal window for defect resolution time.

Defect density

Number of bugs or defects per 1,000 lines of code.

Deployment frequency

Measure of how often code is deployed.

Escaped defects

Number of issues found in a release or deployment after production. A high number of escaped defects can indicate weaknesses in your QA processes.

Failed deployments

Number of deployments that have failed in a given timeframe — an indicator of code stability.

Production downtime

Time work spends in the queue while other items are awaiting review, approval, fixes, etc.

Quality intelligence

Complex metric that helps development teams measure quality and viability of products as a whole and not just what is currently being worked on.

Release frequency

Measure of how often releases are completed and delivered — similar to deployment frequency but on a less continuous frequency.

Agile comes with the promise of a higher quality product, a more dynamic team, and more satisfied customers — and agile metrics can provide the proof. Select a few to start, then try adding more or different metrics over time as you explore what is most meaningful for your team. You will start to see the benefits of your efforts represented in a tangible way.

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