DevOps success: 5 flow metrics to get you there

DevOps success: 5 flow metrics to get you there

To reach your goals for DevOps, you must first choose the right metrics. Check out five metrics that get at everyday problems in language business people understand: Think revenue

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4. We’ve been full out with urgent requests and still haven’t begun today’s high-priority work.

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’s time to measure WIP.

WIP metric:

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?

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’m in service management, portfolio management, or development, my view of the world might be in three different tools. But there’s only one view of the truth and we constantly have to translate this in order to get our story straight. That’s often done via manual handoffs – spreadsheets, emails, and status meetings. If this sounds familiar, consider measuring efficiency.

Efficiency metric:

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 don’t have to plan a big expensive initiative or get everyone’s approval before beginning with flow metrics. Start small. Here’s a list to get you going:

  • Find one business leader willing to support a short (4- 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 your business leader’s pain point 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.

To deliver customer value quickly, you must enable the smooth, fast, and predictable flow of work across the value stream. That’s how flow metrics can help you become the voice of reason in your organization. Flow metrics expose big-picture business problems in a language that business people can understand. It can help business leaders see the tradeoffs from decisions made and initiate vital conversations for change.

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