utilization

DevOps Metrics – Flow Metrics That Work [#DevOpsMetrics #FlowMetrics #AgileViews]

1. Things take too long. When will the new feature be ready?: Speed Metric – Flow Time
2. Your top priority may be this project, but our team has another one: Throughput Metric – Flow Velocity
3. It may not be in the project scope, but we need to install important security patches!: Work Type Allocation Metric – Flow Distribution
4. We’ve been full out with urgent requests and still haven’t begun today’s high-priority work: WIP Metric – Flow Load
5. We use different tools with different views. Is there a way to achieve a single view of the world?: Efficiency Metric – Flow Efficiency

1. Things take too long. When will the new feature be ready? – Speed Metric
It is hard to anticipate all the things that delay work. Uncertainty flourishes with every interruption from unplanned and invisible work. When people complain that things take too long, it is time to measure just how long things actually take.

Here is where a speed metric is useful.

Speed metric – Flow time:
Flow time is the elapsed time it takes a request (an epic, story, artifact, feature, whatever) to go from, “Yes, let’s do this” to “Done.”

Typically measured in days, flow time can help you be more predictable because you can see how long features (for example) take to flow across the value stream.

This measurement allows you to look at percentiles and probabilities and answer questions like, “What’s the probability of delivering a new feature within 30 days?”

The idea here is to be approximately right instead of exactly wrong.

2. Your top priority may be this project, but our team has another one – Throughput Metric:
With so many projects happening at the same time, competition for attention of people and resources is tough. The top priority of Team A is not the top priority of Team B. When priorities are unclear, people take on too much work-in-progress, and this increases flow time, causing delays across the value stream. A throughput metric will reveal just how much work is getting done.

Throughput metric – Flow velocity:
Flow velocity can tell you how many work items are completed (usually viewed week over week). A decision to do one thing is a decision to delay something else. Flow velocity is useful for forecasting the number of features or stories given historical data.

And for asking, “Does flow velocity improve when there are fewer conflicting priorities?” It can help others see the impacts of conflicting priorities across the organization.

3. It may not be in the project scope, but we need to install important security patches! – Work type allocation metric:
When only feature type work gets approved, technical debt increases over time. Important non-functional requirements (“revenue protection” work) are neglected, overpowered by the promise of revenue generation.

Important work morphs into urgent work as the neglected work evolves into an emergency, such as a security breach. If this is your situation, bring visibility to work type allocations.

Work type allocation metric – Flow distribution:
Flow distribution via categorizing business value can be organized into 4 buckets:
Features
Defects
Risks
Debt

Visualizing these different types of work makes tradeoffs clear and helps decision-makers set the strategic direction for the company. Risks are primarily to tackle security/compliance. If you continue to do more feature work, you cannot expect that it will not take away from doing risk work.

Either you are managing your value stream or it is managing you. Tech debt over time will eventually take you down. The business and IT need to understand this. Make sure you invest in your future by allocating capacity to fix tech debt.

4. We’ve been full out with urgent requests and still haven’t begun today’s high-priority work – WIP metric:
When people think they need to be busy all the time, utilization levels increase and teams become overwhelmed with too much work-in-progress (WIP). People utilized at 100 percent do not have the capacity to handle unplanned or urgent requests without dropping other high-priority work.

The single most important factor affecting how long things take is the amount of WIP, which is the primary factor for all speed metrics. If your teams are drowning in too much work, it is time to measure WIP.

WIP metric – Flow load:
Flow load measures all the partially completed work in a value stream. Flow load has the added benefit of being a leading indicator. Like a backed-up highway, you know your commute will take longer as soon as you get on the road.

5. We use different tools with different views. Is there a way to achieve a single view of the world? – Efficiency Metric:
We have more tools now than ever before. The reality is that everyone is busy working in their tool and each team uses a different one. People have different views of the value stream depending on what tools they work in.

If I am in service management, portfolio management, or development, my view of the world might be in 3 different tools.

But there is only one view of the truth and we constantly have to translate this in order to get our story straight.

That is often done via manual handoffs – spreadsheets, emails, and status meetings.

If this sounds familiar, consider measuring efficiency.

Efficiency metric – Flow efficiency:
Flow efficiency is the percentage of time work is in an active state vs. a wait state.

Much of flow time is simply wait time. You are doing well if your flow efficiency is more than 15 percent.

Learn how much wait time exists in your value stream to drive the discussion around improving decisions on prioritization, capacity, and utilization.

When it comes to estimating how long things will take, if you measure anything, measure wait time.

How to get started with flow metrics
You do not have to plan a big expensive initiative or get approval from everyone before beginning with flow metrics.

Start small.

Here is a list to get you going:
Find one business leader willing to support a short (4-week to 6-week) experiment in exchange for better visibility on what matters to them.

Identify one value stream to start with and visualize the flow of work.

Identify one metric (e.g., if the pain point of your business leader is speed, start with flow time).

Develop one success criteria (e.g., faster flow).

Improvement takes time – be patient and persevere.

Show and tell the results with business leaders and executives.

Adapted from
DevOps success: 5 flow metrics to get you there:
The Enterprisers Project

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