Cherwell IT Service Management Blog
Resources, Best Practices, and Solutions for ITSM Pros

Defining Agility and its Metrics

Posted by

The philosophy of an agile IT solution is seeing just how tightly IT can fill the changing needs of business. Agility, as a concept and movement, is tough to pin down since it covers a range of methodologies and services. So, what are these tangible tenants that add insight to the idea of agility?

The Cloud

First of all, the cloud offers maybe the biggest role in what is seen as agile today. For one, the cloud allows the business to scale the IT solution to fit the business. It is changeable and flexible to business needs.

Cloud computing also offers agile delivery options. The business can choose SaaS (software as a service), that gives subscriptions to a web-based accessed service. Or they can opt for a PaaS (platform as a service) which gives the customer the ability to create and configure a service from the provider’s tools or libraries, while the provider takes care of the network, servers, and storage.

The cloud offers agile billing options too. Rather than paying a set price for a set service, the cloud provides the ability to pay by use or other flexible means. This, the business is able to scale up or scale down and adjust the pricing to it.

Say you have a cloud based system in place. Okay. What are the metrics you’ll want to use that are indicative of an efficient agile solution? Agile solutions and cloud computing were most likely chosen for their speed in the first place. Look at timeliness, delivery speed, and cycle time metrics.

Resilient Systems

Agility is concerned with speed, of course, and also in avoiding fragile systems that disrupt the system with failures. Rather than focusing on being “robust,” which means “unchangeable” according to Dave van Herpen, IT should shoot for “anti-fragile” systems. Van Herpen’s distinction describes a system that is still changeable, but resilient in its response to failures in that it learns from them, rather than only attempting to minimize them. This aims to cut down failure time from hours to minutes or seconds, which means better agility.

This approach looks at metrics like recovery time, rather than emphasizing number of failures metrics. However, in learning the recovery, agile systems hope to also add knowledge, fix root causes, and avoided using work-arounds as a crutch.

Agile Processes

The software is only one piece of the agile pie. The other is determining an agile process to couple with your agile software. For some, this is where DevOps comes into the picture and utilizes the agile software. Regardless of what you call it, agile software requires planning and processes to integrate with the business. They should be constantly collaborating by creating infrastructure, adding value, and creating feedback loops.

Once an agile system is in place, there are metrics significant to an agile process. In his most recent appearance on Bright Talk, van Herpen detailed the key metrics as stories planned, number of test cases, and time-to-value metrics especially. Time-to-value reflects the value chain—the bottom line is always adding business value.

Now, we’re going to turn the mic over to you. What do you do to become agile?