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Agile Metrics Part 2

In an earlier post, I talked about the burndown/burnup chart used in agile processes to report the status of a project. What I like the most about the chart is that it gives you a simple to use and maintain tool for making decisions about your project.

Suppose we are writing a store management system that focuses on bicycle shops. We know that the software needs to be ready in time for its debut at Interbike 2008. There's just one problem, our burndown shows that we won't be ready until November of 2008, nearly two months after the show.

Decision Time

What we have on our hands is a fixed date project. What can we do to bring the date in by two months? When the date doesn't look good on an agile project, there are generally three proposed solutions:

Of the three, adding staff is usually the worst option. Remember Brook's Law:

Adding manpower to a late software project makes it later.

The next option, moving the release date, depends a lot on context. In our example, being ready for the Interbike show provides a major opportunity for securing new business, so we cannot afford to miss the show.

The final option, cutting scope, makes the most sense for us at this time. Having a prioritized backlog allows us to cut out some of the lower priority features in exchange for having a releasable product ready for Interbike.

Now, what happens if you can't cut scope? So we've got a fixed date, fixed scope project. There's no other option right? We need to add staff... I don't think so, there are other options.

Alternative metrics

At the Agile 2007 conference this year I had the pleasure of hearing from Niel Nickolaisen about his Purpose Based Alignment model. By applying his model to the features in your project, you can gain insight about other ways to bring your project's date in to where you need it to be. In the next part of my post on Metrics, I'll take a look at at how you can use Niel's model to help bring in that date.