IDC Metri offering helps measure the cost and value of agile teams

24 May 2022 7 min. read
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IDC Metri has launched a new service that helps companies measure and enhance the productivity and delivery speed of their agile teams.

Over the past decade, agile has grown into one of the most important methodologies for running and changing businesses. Agile working emerged out of a growing dissatisfaction with IT techniques used in the late 90s, such as the waterfall method in software development.

The alternative methodology centres around fast-paced iterative work within multidisciplinary teams, in order to fulfil agile’s key focus of putting the customer’s needs at the heart of development.

Harold van Heeringen, IDC Metri

Since the launch of the Agile Manifesto in 2001, the approach gained popularity well beyond the IT domain it was initially intended for, with research recently suggesting that over 80% of large corporates in Western Europe are adopting agile.

According to dozens of studies conducted over the years, this popularity stems from agile’s ability to help businesses become more efficient, upgrade quality, speed up innovation, and – most importantly in today’s rapidly changing world – become more resilient and responsive to change.

But against all the plaudits and value reaped from agile there is also a flipside: the increasing cost of building and running agile teams. Harold van Heeringen has been keeping track of agile developments for years. The firm he works for, IDC Metri, is one of the research and benchmarking leaders in the field of agile performance management.

Benchmarking agility

All too often, companies deploying agile approach IDC Metri with a simple question: are my agile teams really more efficient? The issue here, Van Heeringen notes, is that leaders “really have little insight into the integral cost of agile teams and their activities.” In order to give a good answer then, the firm begins by examining what the cost of working agile is in the first place.

“There are a few elements to this,” Van Heeringen says. First is that much of what is worked on in an agile manner has no tangible business value. And when a ‘deliverable’ is achieved, assessing the value of the deliverable is difficult. “While measuring input on metrics such as budget or hours is relatively easy, measuring the more intangible output in a standardised, objective way is a real challenge.”

Add to this that the principle of agile centres around the notion of flexibility and change, and curbing aspects that over-control the process, such as rigid measurement frameworks.

“Over-tracking activities and value simply doesn’t align with the agile philosophy,” admits Van Heeringen. As a result, he adds, “Many CxOs are dissatisfied with the lack of (financial) control over their agile teams. They have too little insights into what the true cost is of doing agile business.”

Ven Heeringen states that often IDC Metri sees “huge differences in productivity, cost efficiency, delivery speed, process quality and product quality between teams in the market”. To give an example: the gap between top performers and followers can on some metrics even be up to 50%.

Then, even when leaders do manage to derive insight into their agile costs, the next question is potentially even harder to answer: how do my agile costs compare with the pre-agile ways of working? In this regard, it’s all about comparing apples with apples, says Van Heeringen.

“When the value created is measured in an objective, repeatable and auditable way, standardised metrics like productivity, cost efficiency, delivery speed, and quality can be measured, and compared across teams and ways of working – to understand the complete value creation for the organisation.”

But in practice, IDC Metri’s database of over 1,000 agile projects shows that there are hardly companies out there that have reached this level of maturity in their agile measurement frameworks. “Agile investments and keeping them in place is done more on gut feeling than on real fact-based analysis,” argues Van Heeringen.

Agile Value Management

This is where IDC Metri’s new offering comes in. “Our Agile Value Management service helps companies define the metrics that need to be measured, and with building and embedding these metrics.” Using this information, teams can then improve and demonstrate their value to budget holders.

“Once low performance is demonstrated, improvement plans can be discussed with realistic targets and timelines. Agile Value Management helps the teams improve and we show management that they are improving over time.” According to an assessment by IDC Metri, putting in place such “continuous monitoring of performance” can deliver low performing teams with productivity gains of over 30%.

One level up, senior management is provided “the steering information to actually manage the value created by the teams. Agile is an expensive approach, and there is a huge difference between high performing and low performing teams. Being in control benefits not only spend, but also quality and risk management.”

Agile Value Management also provides companies with the backbone to assess agile working across the board. “With standard metrics in place, there’s not much difference between approaches. Agile teams work in shorter cycles, so value is measured faster and more often. But the trendlines provide the bigger picture.”

Developers also benefit

Beyond agile team leaders and management, developers can also benefit from the Agile Value Management offering. “Most developers have a healthy aversity against measurements, but there an additional added value for the developers as well: the ability to improve the code in a fast and targeted way by removing critical violations (the never-to-do’s) in the code.”

“Many organisations mistakenly think they have ensured the quality of the software produced with code hygiene tools. These do form a good basis, but are not sufficient to serve as a structural quality gate as these developer tools don’t measure deep enough, don’t cover all standards and best practices, and don’t measure against the fairly new ISO 5055 standard for automated software code analysis.”

Van Heeringen continued, “Agile Value Management measures the code against all relevant international standards and best practices using the worldwide leading code analysis platform of CAST, pinpointing exactly the critical violations in the code, the reason why they are considered critical (with reference to the standard) and even how to solve them.”

After the baseline measurement, IDC Metri develops an improvement plan that enables developers to solve “their most severe critical violations in the code” and “monitor progress over time.”

According to Van Heeringen, many teams are reluctant at first, but once they see the scores improve, they become more and more enthusiastic. “People want to do a good job and focus on the important things help them to do better. Understanding the critical violations and subsequently learning from them really improves the skills of the developers.”

All in all, both management and the teams benefit. “That’s what Agile Value Management is all about: delivering more value faster to the business while improving the robustness, efficiency, security, maintainability and transferability of the code, reducing risk for the organisation significantly.”