Progress isn’t that complicated

Task counts, burndown charts, measuring velocity, estimates, backlog size, estimated hours, completed hours, use cases remaining, number of stories done, number of stories being tested, etc. There are so many ways people try to measure and quantify expended effort and compare it to estimated remaining effort. Often in an attempt to convey some indication of progress.

Most of the time we’d be better off saying “It’ll be done (insert random day of the week)” and getting back to work. The best indication of progress is valuable software in the hands of users. Everything else is irrelevant.

By the way, done isn’t all that complicated either, it’s the same thing. Valuable software in the hands of users.

Valuable is a critical adjective. All too often I hear people talking about released software in terms of expended effort. “We completed and released 17 stories” or “Our velocity was 18 and if it stays at or above 15 we’ll be on time.” If the released software itself doesn’t alone convey progress then I think you have a good indication that it’s lacking value.

If you’re making progress you should be able to speak in terms of “We can do X now” or “Our customers can do Y.” Those are simple terms anyone can relate to, and have confidence things are in good hands.

Don’t get all worked up yet, I know these techniques serve other purposes. I’ll get to those next.