Thursday, April 9, 2015

The worthless metric: percent complete

Perhaps I've said this before. I certainly intended to. But, percent complete is a worthless metric

Percent complete is not a measure of value; it’s really not even a measure of completeness, even if some things are completed at less than 100%. 
I say this because, as a ratio, both the denominator and numerator are in play. Thus, “percent complete” is a moving baseline.

The ratio is dimensionless, whereas value has a dimension; it can be measured.
In the Agile space, percent complete is replaced entirely with “remaining effort”. In other words, the Agile management focus is on three questions:
  1. How much do I have to do—to wit: backlog for the iteration, release, or project
  2. How much have I done already—backlog burned and done, and
  3. How much do I have left to do? Note: how much left includes the WIP.

Since the backlog is dynamic—some new things added, some things abandoned, some things left over as debt from prior iterations—you can see that percent complete is meaningless.

The backlog at any given moment is the denominator (burned, WIP, and not started); the numerator is the backlog burned. Both numerator and denominator change from moment to moment, rendering the metric useless for management purposes.

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