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Managing Agile activities using standardised measures

Aguiar, M., Symons, C.R., Vliet, E. van der

Agile processes have brought major benefits to many businesses of faster delivery of software that better meets evolving customer needs. However, the freedom given to individual teams to manage their own processes has made it difficult to manage the activities across Agile teams – what we call managing ‘Agile-at-scale’.
To be specific, Agile metrics such as Story Points, may be used by individual teams to manage their own affairs but are very little help for the tasks of planning and monitoring progress across teams, for understanding performance and whether it is improving or not, and for estimating future investments.
Senior management is responsible for setting budgets and allocating resources optimally so as to deliver the greatest value to the organization, and for tracking progress against budgets across the organization. This cannot be done properly for a software group using only typical Agile processes where there are no common performance data across all the teams. These management tasks become
even more difficult for an organization that has contracted out its software development to external suppliers that use Agile processes, but that do not use any standard performance measures.
In this paper we explain the challenges that management faces when confronted with the limitations of Agile metrics. We show how simple but effective and long-established ISO standard software measures can fit seamlessly into Agile processes to enable managers to estimate and control Agile delivery at scale. This can be achieved without needing to change any of the underlying Agile processes, and whilst continuing to obtain the benefits that Agile teams can bring in the speed and flexibility of delivering business value.

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