Using Flow Metrics to Measure Value Streams

Jul 8, 2021

IT administrators are under enormous pressure to bring software to market in a fast and cost-effective manner. To meet these objectives, IT departments often collect a variety of metrics that measure specific development processes. 

While data and metrics are definitely helpful, administrators often fail to visualize projects on a macro level and measure total production workflows. This lets bottlenecks and inefficiencies go unnoticed across the value stream, constraining production and negatively impacting business outcomes. 

Simply put, achieving lean project management and optimal DevOps workflows requires end-to-end visibility across the entire value chain. And the easiest way to do that is by analyzing value stream flow metrics. 

Keep reading to learn the different types of value stream flow metrics, why they’re important, and how to start measuring them. 

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Imagine a single dashboard managing all enterprise software delivery, boosting visibility, efficiency, and cutting costs. Experience Plutora's solutions today!

What Are Flow Metrics?

Value stream flow metrics demonstrate the rate of value delivery in relation to desired business outcomes. In short, this enables businesses to view production through a wider lens and make stronger decisions. Flow metrics can also provide a historical analysis of performance over time. This is especially important for organizations focused on continuous improvement. 

Flow metric analysis is now being widely deployed among IT leaders needing to close the gap between technology and business teams. In large part, this is because value stream flow metrics can expose a variety of mission-critical problems. For example, teams can discover why projects take so long, prioritization challenges, and technical debt, among other things. 

When analyzing value stream flow metrics, IT departments measure work items—or individual work units—that clients or product teams pass down to their colleagues. For example, this may include a request for a new feature in a piece of software, a security vulnerability, or a flaw that needs to get fixed. 

What Are the Types of Value Stream Flow Metrics? 

Now that you have a better idea about what flow metrics are, let’s dig a little deeper and examine the five flow metrics that teams should be analyzing throughout the development process.  

1. Throughput

Throughput measures the total number of flow items completed over a specific amount of time. By measuring Throughput, it’s possible to determine the total amount of value delivered during a particular project.  

Throughput is usually measured on a week-over-week basis. What’s more, analyzing throughput on a historical basis can also help teams determine how conflicting priorities impact overall value. 

Maximizing throughput leads to happier customers and improved end-user experiences. This, in turn, drives revenue and accelerates growth.  

2. Lead Time

Lead time captures the total time from the commitment to a work item to its delivery to the customer. This includes understanding when a work item is moved from a backlog to the time it is released. 

Lead time gives teams an understanding of the overall time it takes to move work items through their pipelines, providing insights into how quickly value can be delivered and improving project estimates. Minimizing lead time creates a more continuous flow of value to customers, allowing them to realize the features they request faster.

3. Cycle Time

Cycle time has to do with the speed at which a team delivers value. This involves measuring the amount of time it takes for work items to move from work start to work complete. 

Cycle time is every bit as important for driving growth and revenue as flow velocity. Measuring cycle time can also make it easier to provide development time estimates and allocate resources. It can result in tighter workflows and improved efficiency.

4. Flow Efficiency

Flow efficiency is the ratio of active time to wait time. Measuring flow efficiency shows where bottlenecks are occurring and whether process waste is increasing or decreasing. Teams should strive to have a flow efficiency rate exceeding 15%. 

When waiting accounts for most flow time it creates bottlenecks and drives up production costs. By measuring flow efficiency, teams can identify when workflows are taking too long. Once that’s done, they can then take active measures to speed up individual processes. 

5. Work In Progress 

Work in progress is all about the demand on value stream team members. To do this, teams need to measure the number of work items that are in active development or waiting within a value stream. Generally speaking, measuring work in progress can help leaders determine whether value streams are over-or underutilized.  

Humans aren’t robots. That being the case, team leaders need to understand how specific employees are being utilized. By understanding load and potential output, managers can strategically issue workloads and boost quality where it’s needed. As a result, this reduces burnout and turnover while lowering mistakes that require rework.

6. Work Profile 

Measuring work profile can help teams determine priority alignment. It’s measured as a ratio of the four work items completed during a certain period of time. 

Analyzing work profile ensures that quality and productivity remain at optimal levels. This boosts CX, leading to improved retention and better reviews.

Introducing Plutora’s Value Stream Flow Dashboard 

Up until recently, DevOps professionals lacked tools for tracking and improving flow metrics. However, recent advancements in tracking flow metrics make the process fast and easy.  

Plutora is leading the field, having recently released a new value stream flow metrics dashboard for DevOps teams. This is a groundbreaking tool that makes tracking flow metrics incredibly easy and intuitive. All of a sudden, the data you need so you can determine the best path forward is readily accessible.  

Plutora’s dashboard, which is available through the Plutora platform, gives production managers a bird’s-eye view of the DevOps process. As a result, it’s possible to view metrics like work items completed, cycle time, flow efficiency, lead time, and work in progress across specific time periods, including a monthly, tri-monthly, biannual, and all-time historical basis. 

Plutora’s dashboard also makes it simple to visualize tasks like work item throughput and lead time through various interactive charts and graphics. For example, a work item's cumulative flow chart can get broken down into various stages, like planning, execution, implementation, completed, and canceled. The tasks can also all get viewed together on one screen for easy and customizable reporting. 

Why Should I Use Plutora for Flow Tracking?

Here are three key reasons why today's leading DevOps teams prefer Plutora for flow tracking. 

1. Improve Communication

Problems tend to arise when there is a lack of communication between business teams and software teams. Plutora gives IT administrators the ability to dive into flow metrics, providing deep insight into the value stream. 

By using Plutora, teams can deliver realistic project estimates and real-time updates, making it easier to communicate with stakeholders. This can reduce finger-pointing and blame while improving teamwork and collaboration. Remember that communication is critical for success when working with multiple project stakeholders. 

2. Identify Desired Business Outcomes 

By having end-to-end visibility across a value stream, business and IT leaders can work together to prioritize projects and establish goals.  

For example, one goal could be improving software quality. By digging into various flow metrics, teams can identify what’s causing software quality issues, how to fix the issues, and how prioritizing software quality and making adjustments could impact other workflows.  

3. Act on Intelligence 

Software teams often spend a lot of resources trying to streamline software development. For example, they usually hire consultants, have meeting after meeting, and bring on new team members.  

However, the insights they need in order to expedite workflows are often in plain sight. The team just needs to discover them.  

Using Plutora’s dashboard, companies can gain direct visibility into the value stream, making it fast and easy to act on intelligence and improve development. Teams can make data-driven decisions without having to rely on guessing. 

Transform Your Value Stream With Plutora! 

Plutora offers the most comprehensive value stream management solution on the market. Deploying Plutora can improve visibility, expedite development, and lower software production costs.  Learn more about VSM by reading our comprehensive guide to Value Stream Management, featuring key essentials, core challenges, and tips from the experts.

But don’t just take our word for it. Request a demo of Plutora today to learn more about the easiest way to supercharge your DevOps team. 

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Deliver Better Software Faster with Plutora

Deliver Better Software Faster with Plutora