Series A startups — virtually overnight — need predictability in shipping product features.
Here are 3 simple metrics I rely on to diagnose and improve predictability:
1. Total Quarterly Output – % Plan vs. Actual
Typically this is calculated in engineering story points, but it could be any reasonable measure that can be quantified.
This metric tells you if your product teams are working from an accurate picture of reality. If you think you have 1000 points per quarter, but actually only have 600 – then you’re going to miss a lot of commitments. More than that, you can’t effectively make or execute a real strategy.
Solid quarterly capacity is like a bedrock foundation that you build your strategy on top of. The stronger the foundation, the stronger your ability to plan and execute.
Without it you’re just hoping and guessing.
2. Sprint Predictability – % Planned vs. Delivered
This is weekly or sprint-level predictability. How much work did you plan to accomplish vs. how much did you actually accomplish? I generally target ~85%. This metric (more than any other) helps you identify most of the process (and culture) gaps underlying broader unpredictability.
After all, if you can’t plan a week, you can’t plan a month or quarter.
Once you get good at hitting weekly plans, you can literally feel the team’s confidence go up. It’s an amazing thing to experience.
3. Project/Feature Estimation – % Planned vs. Actual
Lastly, this is a measure of how well product managers truly understood and defined the features and projects they prioritize for the quarter. It’s also how well they managed scope throughout the project. I like when teams have “budgets” for each feature or initiative in a quarterly release plan. These won’t be 100% accurate, but they enable the team to manage roughly to those budgets. It enforces a level of discipline and scrutiny that ultimately yields better predictability for the business.
Reviewing the deltas between planned and actual scope, becomes a useful tool to benchmark “how well we’re doing” and see what’s driving misses.
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