Magdalena Jackiewicz
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Magdalena Jackiewicz
Reviewed by a tech expert

Agile health metrics: how to know when your project is doomed?

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Agile metrics are vital tools that enable teams to measure the effectiveness of their Agile practices and processes, ensuring that projects are on the right track towards successful completion. 

In this article, we’re taking a deep dive into key metrics that offer valuable insights into different aspects of project health and performance.

Why analyze project and Sprint performance?

To ensure the projects are handled smoothly and remain under control, you have to analyze Sprint performance. This activity provides project managers and scrum masters with crucial insights into the current state and trajectory of a project. This systematic evaluation plays several key roles:

Monitoring project health

Regular assessment of Sprint performance allows Agile teams to grasp the overall state, or health of the project. It helps in understanding whether the project is progressing as planned and if it's meeting the set standards and expectations. If they aren’t, PMs will have to take actions to rectify this before it’s too late. 

Early issue detection

This is one of the primary advantages of analyzing Sprint performance. The proactive approach allows for early identification of potential issues and bottlenecks and enables teams to address problems before they escalate, thereby minimizing their impact on the project.

Ensuring project alignment

Continuous evaluation ensures that each Sprint, and consequently the entire project, stays aligned with the overarching goals and objectives. It helps in keeping the team focused and on track, avoiding deviations that could lead to project delays or failure.

Predictive analysis

Analyzing patterns and trends from past Sprints can provide predictive insights into the project's future performance. Certain recurring issues or patterns might indicate significant challenges, signaling that the project could be at risk or "doomed" without timely intervention and course correction.

Facilitating continuous improvement

Sprint analysis is not just about identifying problems; it’s also an opportunity for learning and improvement. By understanding what works well and what doesn’t, teams can adapt their processes, thereby improving their Agile practices.

Enhancing team collaboration and morale

Regularly reviewing Sprint performance can foster a culture of transparency and the collaboration principle within and outside the team (all stakeholders should be aware of the progress!). It encourages open communication about successes and failures, contributing to a more cohesive and motivated team.

Now that we’ve outlined the advantages of analyzing Sprint performance for taking care of project health, let’s look at some key metrics that can offer tangible insights into the state of those projects.

Key Agile project health metrics to monitor

The Agile framework offers a number of different metrics that cover various aspects of project management: from quality, through productivity, to team health. Here’s a few of those metrics that we apply to every project to ensure we don’t lose control.


Predictability in Agile projects is a vital aspect that enables teams to estimate and forecast future performance by leveraging historical data. This aspect of predictability is especially critical in measuring Agile project health, as it indicates the team's capacity for delivery and is necessary to establish realistic and achievable expectations for project timelines.

Key tools for measuring predictability include Velocity and Burndown Charts. Consistency in these metrics over time indicates a high level of predictability.

Velocity is a primary Agile project health metric. It quantifies the amount of work a team successfully completes during a Sprint, usually measured in story points. Tracking velocity over several Sprints helps teams to identify patterns and trends in their work rate, which is invaluable for predicting future Sprint capacities and for Sprint planning. 


In turn, Burndown Charts track the completion of tasks in a Sprint, showing how quickly a team is working through its backlog. They offer a visual representation of the work completed versus the work remaining in a Sprint. 


By plotting the number of tasks or story points completed each day against the total scope of the Sprint, a Burndown Chart demonstrates how quickly and effectively a team is working through its backlog. This tool helps in identifying any deviations from the planned progress, enabling teams and stakeholders to make informed adjustments to work schedules or scopes.

How to use this metric?

You can look at Velocity and Burndown Charts in concert to make predictions, but each of these tools can give you hints about poor project health individually.

For velocity, calculate the average number of story points (or any other unit of measure) completed over several Sprints. This average helps in forecasting future Sprint capacities and setting realistic goals.

Burndown Charts  should also be used daily to track the remaining work in a Sprint. If the team is consistently meeting its targets, the chart will show a downward trend. The Charts are very effective at identifying any deviations from the planned progress, enabling teams to make informed adjustments when they are lagging behind.

Warning sign

If the team's velocity is consistently unpredictable or decreasing over time, it suggests difficulties in managing workloads or technical challenges. A burndown chart that consistently shows a failure to complete tasks within the Sprint indicates poor planning or estimation, and can eventually jeopardize project timelines.

Number of bugs

The number of bugs or defects in a software project is the critical indicator of the overall code quality and the effectiveness of the development practices employed. However, it's important to understand that this metric, while valuable, should be interpreted with nuance and in the context of other quality indicators.

The number of bugs in a software project is a direct indicator of code quality and the effectiveness of development practices. At the same time, a large number of bugs may be a side effect of the client's push on releasing features fast or other issues, such as scope creep. Monitoring this metric helps in identifying patterns or areas in the development process that may need improvement. A low number of bugs typically signifies good code quality and effective development practices, whereas a high number may indicate issues in these areas.

How to use this metric?

Start with establishing a baseline for the average number of bugs typically reported in each Sprint or development phase. This baseline will serve as a reference point for future comparisons and trend analysis.

The most important thing about this metric is to implement a consistent process for tracking and reporting the bugs. This should be done regularly, ideally at the end of each Sprint or phase, to maintain an up-to-date view of the software's quality. Use bug tracking tools like Jira to streamline this process and ensure accurate data collection. Make sure you categorize bugs based on severity, frequency, and impact. This helps in prioritizing which bugs need immediate attention and which can be scheduled for later.

Warning sign

A continuously increasing number of bugs, especially critical ones, is a red flag. It could mean that the code quality is deteriorating, or there are gaps in the testing process. This can lead to increased technical debt and more significant problems down the line.

Bug fixing times

Looking at bug fixing times offers great insights into the responsiveness and efficiency of a development team in maintaining software quality. It measures the time taken from when a bug is first discovered to when it is fully resolved.

Shorter bug fixing times are usually seen as preferable for several reasons:

  • quick resolution of bugs demonstrates the team's responsiveness and the ability to promptly address issues, which is essential in a dynamic and fast-paced development environment.
  • regular and speedy fixing of bugs helps with software quality menaintenance. It ensures that issues are resolved before they compound or lead to more significant problems.
  • by resolving bugs quickly, the development team can minimize the impact on the end-user. This is crucial for user satisfaction and trust, especially in a competitive market where users have high expectations for software performance and reliability.
  • shorter bug fixing times typically reflect a team's agility. Agile teams are able to quickly adapt to changes, including the resolution of unexpected bugs, which is an important aspect of software development.

In summary, while measuring bug fixing times, it's crucial to consider not just the duration but also the context and complexity of the bugs. The goal is to maintain a balance between speed and thoroughness, ensuring that while bugs are fixed promptly, the solutions are effective and do not introduce new issues.

How to use this metric?

Measure the time from when a bug is reported to when it is resolved – it’s that simple. Shortening this time indicates efficiency in your development process. Use this metric to prioritize bug fixes and manage the backlog effectively.

Remember you’ll have to consider not just the duration but also the context and complexity of the bugs. Aim to maintain a balance between speed and thoroughness, ensuring that while bugs are fixed promptly, the solutions are effective and do not introduce new issues.

Warning sign

If the time to fix bugs is getting longer, it may indicate that the team is overwhelmed, or the issues are becoming more complex and harder to resolve. Prolonged bug fixing times can delay other development activities and impact the project's progress.

Number of incidents

Monitoring the number of incidents is critical in software development and IT operations, as it quantifies the frequency of unplanned disruptions or degradations in service quality. Looking at this metric is crucial for several reasons:

  • the frequency of incidents is a key indicator of software stability is the frequency of incidents. Frequent interruptions can suggest instability, necessitating a thorough examination of the software's design and implementation.
  • how often service quality is compromised is closely tied to the reliability of a software system. A lower number of incidents typically reflects a more reliable system, contributing positively to user experience and satisfaction.
  • a high rate of incidents can indicate deeper problems within the software's architecture or its operational environment. It may point out to system design or coding flaws, insufficient testing, or even issues in the deployment environment.
  • tracking incident rates can help organizations identify patterns and recurring issues, guiding them in prioritizing areas for improvement. This data-driven approach ensures that resources are allocated effectively to enhance system performance.

How to use this metric?

Keep a log of all incidents and categorize them by severity.

Analyzing the frequency and patterns of these incidents to identify systemic issues or areas needing improvement.

It's important to analyze them in conjunction with other data, such as the severity of incidents and the response time to resolve them. This comprehensive analysis provides a clearer picture of the overall health and quality of the software system.

Warning sign

A high or increasing number of incidents, particularly those of high severity, can suggest unstable or unreliable software. This instability can erode stakeholder confidence and lead to dissatisfaction among end-users.

Time required to resolve incidents

It’s straightforward: this metric tracks the time required to resolve an incident after its identification. It’s often referred to as "incident resolution time." It’s a vital component in evaluating service quality and customer satisfaction in custom software development for the following reasons:

  • the duration of incident resolution directly impacts the quality of service experienced by users. Shorter resolution times usually translate to minimized disruption and maintenance of high service standards.
  • the speed with which incidents are resolved is an indicator of the efficiency of support teams. Faster resolution times demonstrate a team's proficiency and preparedness in handling issues.
  • quick resolution of problems is key to maintaining high levels of customer satisfaction. Customers typically have a better experience when issues are addressed and resolved promptly, fostering a sense of reliability and trust in the service.
  • this metric also reflects the responsiveness of the team. A swift response to incidents indicates a proactive approach to problem-solving, which is crucial in dynamic service environments.
  • consistently monitoring incident resolution times helps organizations set benchmarks and identify areas for improvement. This ongoing evaluation helps in optimizing processes and training for better future performance.

How to use this metric?

Record the time taken to resolve each incident. Aim to reduce this time through improved processes or better resource allocation.

Warning sign

An increasing trend in the time required to resolve incidents can indicate inadequate skills, insufficient resources, or systemic issues within the project. Long resolution times can affect service quality and customer satisfaction.

Service Level Agreement (SLA) compliance

SLA compliance measures how well the services provided adhere to the agreed-upon standards and terms in the SLA. This metric is essential for maintaining customer trust and satisfaction. High compliance rates indicate that the team is effectively meeting or exceeding the expectations set in the SLAs.

This metric, while not directly indicative of the project health, holds significant importance for several reasons:

  • non-compliance with SLAs can carry significant risks, including penalties and loss of reputation. Thus, maintaining high compliance rates is also a risk management strategy, helping to avoid potential contractual and financial repercussions.
  • SLA compliance serves as a concrete benchmark for measuring the quality of services provided. It quantifies how well the service provider is meeting the agreed-upon standards, offering a clear and objective measure of performance.
  • adhering to SLAs is fundamental to building customer trust. When service providers consistently meet SLA standards, it reassures customers that they can rely on the services being offered.

How to use this metric?

Regularly compare actual performance against SLA requirements. Use this data to identify areas where the service is failing to meet agreed standards and take corrective action. Note that this metric should be viewed in conjunction with other performance indicators for a comprehensive understanding of service quality.

While high SLA compliance is desirable, it's important to balance this metric with other performance indicators and customer feedback. This holistic approach ensures that the focus remains on delivering value and not just on meeting contractual terms.

Warning sign

Consistently failing to meet SLA standards is a serious concern. It suggests that the project is not meeting its contractual obligations, which can lead to legal issues, financial penalties, and loss of client trust.

Time to market

Time to market is a key metric in Agile projects, measuring the duration from the inception of a product to its availability to consumers. In the Scrum context, a shorter time to market is often a priority, reflecting the methodology’s emphasis on rapid delivery and responsiveness to market demands. It signifies the team's efficiency in delivering new features, updates, or products, which is crucial in today's fast-paced market environments. Improving Time to Market (TTM) is essential in Agile projects to stay competitive and responsive to customer needs.

How to use this metric?

Track the duration from the start of the project (or a new feature) to its release. This will be your baseline measurement for the TTM and a reference point for improvement. Use this metric to support optimizing processes in a way that actually reduces TTM, thereby enhancing responsiveness to market needs.

Warning sign

If the time to market keeps extending, it suggests inefficiencies in the development process or problems with project scope and management. This delay can be particularly detrimental in fast-paced industries where staying ahead of competitors is crucial.

What typically contributes to extended TTMs are: issues in the development process (e.g. scope creep, poor overall and release planning, or resource constraints), frequent scope changes, releasing products with bugs or poor quality to meet deadlines – the latter will always backfire.

Sprint Goals Delivery

The Sprint Goals Delivery measures the extent to which the goals set at the beginning of a Sprint are achieved by the end of that Sprint. This metric is particularly important for assessing the effectiveness and efficiency of a team in delivering value in each Sprint cycle. Here's  what you should know about this metric:

  • Sprint Goals Delivery measures progress by tracking the completion of set objectives within each Sprint. It's a direct measure of how much of the planned work is getting done.
  • Regularly meeting Sprint goals indicates a high-performing, efficient team. It shows the team's ability to estimate and deliver work effectively.
  • This metric helps assess the accuracy of Sprint planning. Consistently missing goals may suggest overambitious planning or underestimation of complexities.
  • By tracking this over time, you can predict future performance, helping in better planning and stakeholder management.
  • Agile methodologies emphasize adaptability. Sprint goal delivery rates can indicate how well the team is adapting to changes and challenges.

How to use this metric?

At the start of a Sprint, the team sets specific goals. These goals are intended outcomes or deliverables that are agreed upon by the team and the product owner. They are typically derived from the product backlog and are a subset of the larger project objectives.

The metric is calculated by comparing the set goals at the beginning of the Sprint with what was actually delivered at the end.

It's often expressed in percentage terms, indicating how much of what was planned was accomplished. For example, if a team completes 8 out of 10 planned items, the Sprint Goals Delivery rate is 80%.

Warning signs

If the team regularly fails to meet Sprint goals, it's a red flag. It could indicate issues with planning, team capacity, or external impediments. Similarly, a downward trend in goal completion rate over several Sprints suggests declining team performance or increasing project complexity.

Note, however, that if goals are met by compromising on quality, it's a serious concern. This might lead to technical debt. Delivering on Sprint Goals must be a balancing act between timeliness and quality assurance.

Number of backlog additions

Monitoring the number of items being added and frequencly of those additions to the backlog as the project unfolds is important to monitoring both health and progress of the project.

Regular additions to the backlog can indicate changes in project scope or evolving client needs. It helps in understanding how the project is evolving beyond its initial parameters. Tracking how often new items are added versus how many are completed or removed can give insights into the team's ability to prioritize and manage workload, should the scope evolve.

How to use this metric?

Monitor the number and type of additions to the backlog on a regular basis. Monitoring “per Sprint” will be optimal in most cases. Then, look at the nature of these additions – are they new features, bug fixes, improvements, or technical debts? This categorization will help you prioritize the backlog effectively.

In addition, make sure you compare the rate of new additions with the rate at which items are being completed. A healthy balance is crucial.

Warning signs

If the backlog keeps growing and the team is unable to address the items at a sustainable rate, it may lead to project delays. Frequent additions might indicate scope creep, where the project continuously expands beyond its initial boundaries.

If the backlog is growing due to numerous bug reports or quality issues, it's a sign that the quality of deliverables needs attention. Additions that don't align with the original goals and vision of the project can lead to a loss of focus and direction.

In conclusion, monitoring the number of backlog additions is a valuable practice in Agile project management. It provides insights into how the project is evolving, helps in managing workload and priorities, and indicates the team's ability to adapt to changes. Keeping an eye on the patterns and implications of these additions can aid in maintaining a healthy, focused, and efficient project workflow.

Agile SDLC practices at RST Software

While regular monitoring of metrics is critical for identifying deviations from the norm or trends, it’s equally important to look at these metrics in the larger context of the project. A sudden drop in team’s velocity may be caused by temporary absence of one of the team members. A large number of errors may be caused by the push for releasing new functionalities fast, in which case developers have to take shortcuts (this doesn’t necessarily have to indicate their incompetence).

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