I delivered a webinar called Agile Metrics for Team and Product Progress last week, thanks to the nice folks at Innovation Roots.
I had fun and so did many of the participants. One person gave me a new saying about metrics (at the end, during the Q&A):
Are you data-driven or data-informed?
It’s such a great saying. I told her I was stealing it.
Here’s why. If you want predictions and targets, you use data to drive the decisions and work. If you want the ability to replan you use data to inform your next steps.
Note: data-informed does not mean you don’t create broad-stroke plans, such as roadmaps and gross estimates. You may still do so. I do. I find both the roadmap and my estimate (smaller or larger than a breadbox) helps me decide which products to deliver and when. And, I use the data about my cycle time to inform my replanning. (I don’t use velocity as a personal piece of data.)
You’ve seen people who want to use velocity as acceleration or a target. However, Velocity is not acceleration; it’s a measure of capacity. Those people think of data as a driver.
I have a suspicion about this mindset. Gantt charts and detailed WBS create the mindset that if we have a target, we will get there in the time and at the cost we specified. We can, for certain kinds of products or services. (For example, construction folks have specifications at a specific cost per square foot. And, the local garage knows how long it takes to change the oil so they can provide a flat fee for the service.
If we use agile approaches, we are inviting change, which means we can’t estimate everything at the beginning. And, we want to understand our progress, so we can readjust because we are responsible for our use of the organization’s money.
If we use agile approaches, does that mean we never have a target? Nope, I have target dates all the time. I break my work into small chunks so I can learn as I proceed if I will make that target date. I use my data to inform me about my pace. Sometimes, I can change how I work to meet my target date. Sometimes, I drop work. Sometimes, I’m early.
I loved that question about mindset: Are you data-driven or data-informed? The mindset helps you consider what to measure. And, yes, that’s why I separated team measures from project status measures in Create Your Successful Agile Project. Teams might do as I do, and create targets to see how they are doing. However, managers need to see product status, which uses data to inform and replan.