Measurements in Agile vs. Predictive Projects (2)–Agile Measurement

I’m going through the Agile Practice Guide in order to understand its contents by adding context to the material in the guide.

Section 5.4 of chapter 5 deals with measuremens in agile projects.   To give context to the discussion on p. 60 of the Guide, I did the previous post comparing agile measurement to measurement in a traditional project management setting.

There the measurements are typically done with a tool called earned value analysis.   This takes the following three building blocks of measurement …

  • Planned value (PV)–this is the authorized budget assigned to the work that is scheduled to be done.   (The key word there is “scheduled”.)
  • Earned value (EV)–this is the measure of work actually performed.   (The key words there are “actually performed”–it is a a measure of how much scope was accomplished.)  This is expressed in terms of the budget authorized for that work.
  • Actual cost (AC)–this is the measure of the actual cost for work actually performed.  (The key word is obviously “cost”.)

… and combines them into formulas that either give a shapshot of how the project is actually doing compared to the plan (both schedule and budget):   these are status measurements.  There are other formulas which predict whether the project will end up being on schedule and within the budget if the current trends continue.    These are predictive measurements.

The problem with earned value analysis is that it is precise, but can be inaccurate if the assumptions underlying the data turn out not to be true.   For example, let’s say you have a work package that was supposed to be completed by a certain date, and it actually is completed by that time and for the budgeted amount of money.    The schedule performance index and cost performance index for that work package should turn out to be 1.0.

But this focuses on the completeness of the work, which is the domain of scope; what about the correctness of the work, which is the domain of quality?   If internal testing is done on the unit of work done, and followed up by integration testing of how the system works with the newly-installed unit, it might turn out that it doesn’t work as expected according to the definition of “done” (the acceptance criteria).   Then the work has to be re-done, and the testing as well.   That’s one problem.

Another problem is where you hand the finished module or unit over to the customer for their inspection.   They say “that’s not what we ordered.”   The acceptance criteria are vague enough that there is a difference between what the customer intended and what the team thought it was doing to meet that requirement.

So, as opposed to a predictive measurement system like earned value analysis that focuses on the completeness of the work, an agile measurement system will have the following characteristics:

  • It will focus on customer value added.
  • It will focus on quality (the correctness of the work), so that a feature is considered finished not when the team has done the work, but after the team has tested it and the customer approves

There are additional features of agile measurement discussed on p. 61; these will be the subject of the next post.


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