Useful Agile Metrics – Cumulative Flow

A simple cumulative flow diagram enabled us to track items by state. Which state you track is entirely up to you. You can create a set of states on the board based around your value stream and track against some or all of them. We use:


  • Total – number of items in our backlog, we try to keep this number down and limit these to epics.
  • Started – analysis has begun, epics are broken down into stories and MMFs, acceptance criteria is written and “enough” technical documentation and/or creative is complete, MMFs are T-Shirt sized and engineering “tasks” are created.
  • Developed – unit tests, code, automated acceptance tests are written
  • Tested – passed by QA and is in UAT
  • Complete – has been released to live


This enables us to report and track our average cycle time; to complete an item from when it enters the queue to when it goes live. 

Cycle time will allow us to plan more effectively with our customer. If with some certainty we know how long an item will take to complete based on its size. It helps answer the question “if I asked you to start on feature x when will it go live?”

In addition we can easily view the amount of work in progress (WIP) we have per state. Work in progress helps us report and track how many items the team is working on at one time, are we taking on too much?

We can also find bottlenecks quickly and look at ways to improve or remove these, for example is our analysis taking too long or are there too many items in QA for our tester to handle? From the example below you can see we have items stacking up that arent released, in our organisation this is due to release freezes (during times such as calendar and financial year end).


4 thoughts on “Useful Agile Metrics – Cumulative Flow

  1. Pingback: Role of the Development Manager « Lean and Kanban

  2. Sorry this comment is so late. Just came across this post.

    As this sort of measurement and graphing has been around a very long time and since the way the groupings are described sound very phased-based, I am wondering what is particularly “agile” about this measurement approach?

  3. Great post. Not really sure what the above poster means though. What would make velocity an “agile” measurement?

    There are phases of delivering a feature, but this does not mean it’s waterfall. I can’t see how Agile differs, you take a feature, break it down, develop it, test it and deliver it. You do so in small pieces so that your customer can give feedback before the feature as a whole is released.

    CFD’s are simple but very effective for finding bottlenecks and inefficiencies within a team.

    • My question has to do with taking anything, applying it to an Agile approach, and then applying the word “agile” to it as an adjective.

      I’m not questioning the potential usefulness of CFDs, just what makes that an agile measure. If CFDs are used in a waterfall context does that make them a “waterfall metric”?

      I can see metrics useful in an Agile context, but, unless the metrics are unique to some aspect of the Agile approach (or a waterfall one), I’m not sure what makes them “agile” (or waterfall) metrics.

      As to my “phase” comment, I can’t tell from the description of the meaning of the phases how sequential compared to iterative the flow of work is that is being measured. Just shortening the length of the phases does not make the approach “agile.” Without some timeframe around the “phases,” I can’t tell if the phases are occurring one after another, taking several days/weeks each or whether the entire cycle for an item happens in a day or a few hours.

      Also, is the “testing phase” done by a separate QA group or is it part of the Agile team’s work, i.e., QA folks work together with the developers? Can’t tell if there’s a clear “handoff” going on. Just need a bit more context, I think, for me to understand better.

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