PMI-ACP Tools and Techniques: Agile Metrics

PMI-ACP Exam Agile Metrics

[PMI-ACP® Exam Study Notes] Agile Metrics is one of the ten Tools and Techniques for the PMI-ACP® exam. The “Tools and Techniques” accounts for a total of 50% of all the questions to be found on the exam paper. According to the PMI-ACP® exam content outline, Metrics includes Velocity, Cycle Time, Earned Value Management (EVM) for Agile projects and Escaped Defects.

PMI-ACP® Exam Importance: around 3-6 questions (~5% of all questions)

PMI-ACP® Tools and Techniques: Metrics

  • Metrics are measurements / calculations that reflect the performance / progress of the project
  • Velocity
    • Velocity of team: the (average) number of story points the team can accomplish in each iteration used to estimate the project timeline and set expectations
    • ideally, after several iterations, the velocity will become constant / gradually increasing owning to synergy and reduced risks
      • for iteration 1, the velocity needs to be guessed based on historic data
      • velocity usually increases over the first few iterations and reaches a plateau afterwards owing to the increase in complexity of the overall product
    • velocity = the slope of a burn down graph
    • factors affecting velocity:
      • staffing (no of resources), morale and their skill sets
      • project arrangement: interruptions / multi-tasking
    • if the team meets for the first time, there is NO historical data on the velocity; the initial velocity (known as “forecasted velocity” can only be guessed based on any available data
  • Cycle Time
    • Cycle time: the time necessary to get a single item of work done from start (idea) to finish (as a shippable product that delivers value)
    • reduce cycle time by shortening iteration time (breaking down task sizes), limiting WIP and reducing wastes
    • Cycle Time = WIP / Throughput (amount of output from a process)
    • Defect cycle time is the time between defect injection and defect remediation, the shorter the better
      • it makes sense to set a realistic goal for the defect cycle time (e.g. ~12 hours)
  • Earned Value Management (EVM) for Agile Projects
    • Earned Value Management is a tool used in traditional project management to measure the progress (in terms of realization of values) of the project
    • In Agile, EVM is the measure of cost performance of the Agile project
      • though the estimate and actual costs (money spent) can be plotted as a S-curve graph to clearly show whether the project is under- or over-budget, it does not tell whether the progress of the project is ahead of or behind schedule
    • Value (story points and money) is calculated at the end of each iteration for work done
    • For the construction of the graph for EVM:
      • The baseline for comparison:
        • number of planned iterations in a release
        • planned story points in the release
        • planned budget for the release
      • Actual measurements:
        • total story points completed
        • number of iterations completed
        • Actual Cost (actual spending) to date
        • any story points added / removed from the plan (as Agile project requirements are ever-changing)
      • Plotting the chart:
        • x-axis: iterations / date
        • y-axis: i) story points planned; ii) story points completed, iii) planned budget; iv) actual costs
        • discrepancies between i) and ii) / iii) and iv) reflect the performance of the release
    • Formulas for EVM (not to be tested on the PMI-ACP® exam)
      • Schedule Performance Index (SPI) = Earned Value / Planned Value
      • Cost Performance Index (CPI) = Earned Value / Actual Cost
    • EVM does not indicate the quality of the project outcome, i.e. whether the project is successful or not
  • Escaped Defects
    • Agile performance (on quality) can also be measure by the number of escaped defects (defects found by customers)
      • defects should be found and fixed during coding and testing
      • defects found early are much less expensive to fix than defects found late

Summary: Metrics

This PMI-ACP® Exam Study notes touches upon one of the many tools and techniques of the PMI-ACP® exam syllabus – Agile Metrics. Metrics includes Velocity, Cycle Time, Earned Value Management (EVM) for Agile projects and Escaped Defects.


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Edward Chung

Edward Chung aspires to become a full-stack web developer and project manager. In the quest to become a more competent professional, Edward studied for and passed the PMP Certification, ITIL v3 Foundation Certification, PMI-ACP Certification and Zend PHP Certification. Edward shares his certification experience and resources here in the hope of helping others who are pursuing these certification exams to achieve exam success.

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2 Responses

  1. Ka Lun says:

    Would like to know how to estimate the initial velocity? is base on past iteration? or base on initial resources on hand? or ask team to guess?


    • Edward Chung says:

      Yes, it is based on guessing.
      But a good rule of thumb is to estimate the initial velocity for Agile projects at 1/3 of the available time for that iteration to account for warm up time, meetings, documentation and unknowns (i.e. if you have 9 working days in an iteration, then the no. of ideal days is 3 => estimate the story point based on what can be achieved in 3 ideal days) .
      But if your team has collaborated on Agile projects before, it is best to estimate based on historical data which tends to be the most accurate.