How Do You Measure Incremental Value Delivery?

Joe Vergara, Agile Rising

Regardless of methodology, we can all agree that the focus on value, and specifically incremental value delivery, is fundamental to Lean, Agile, and Business Agility.  But if incremental value delivery is so vital to our success, then why don’t we have metrics to assess this?

Yes, we have flow metrics like cycle time and velocity.  We also have means to better identify bottlenecks using cumulative flow and flow efficiency.  But these measures are often used to evaluate activities or how items like Stories or Features are flowing through a system.  And while we should be able to inherently derive value from these Stories and Features, these metrics don’t really tell us how much or how often value is delivered or realized.

SAFe’s Predictability Measure provides a more direct assessment of value delivery and allows us to see how value delivery is improving from PI to PI.  But the feedback loop of 8 to 12 weeks is too slow, and it doesn’t provide insights into how (or even if) value was delivered incrementally within any given PI.  So, let’s take this one step further.

Introducing the Value Burn-Up Chart. Instead of assessing value only at the end of the PI, we simply assess value delivery as part of the system demo after each iteration.

By assessing value delivery every iteration, we shorten the feedback loop and get a direct measure of incremental value delivery.  It also allows us to identify and act upon potential improvement opportunities much sooner, especially when using the Value Burn-Up in tandem with other metrics.  Take this as an example.

Looking at this Story Burn-Down alone, it looks like we are behind but still progressing along against our plan.  Factoring in the Value Burn-Up, however, we may have some false-positive feasibility.  To help us understand why this may be, the Value Burn-Up sparks additional questions:

  • Are our Stories valuable to our customers?
  • Are we aligned with our customers’ needs?
  • Are we using Minimum Viable Products (MVPs) and Minimal Marketable Features (MMFs) to help us realize value quicker?
  • Do we need to make enhancements to our Continuous Delivery Pipeline (CDP) to allow for more frequent deployments or releases?
  • Are we building quality into our Stories from the start?

By using the Value Burn-Up Chart, we not only get a direct measure of incremental value delivery, but it also helps us to focus on how we can improve our ability to deliver value incrementally.  And in this improvement, it better enables Business Agility, allowing organizations to more rapidly respond to market changes and opportunities.

So, the question is – When will you start measuring incremental value delivery?