The Corrello Blog

Thoughts on Scrum and Agile with Trello

What is Cycle Time?

What is Cycle Time?

Cycle time is the total time a card spent in progress, from when it was started until it was completed. It is often reported for all cards completed in a time period as a percentile, ie what cycle time were 50% of all cards completed in?

Cycle time is often shown on a Cycle Time or Control Chart, let’s take a look at how to use a cycle time chart.

How to use your Cycle Time Chart

There are a few things people look for in their Cycle Time Charts.

  1. Finding outliers
  2. Comparing Cycle Time by Label
  3. Is Cycle Time steady over time?

Finding outliers

By clicking on the points high up on the chart you can see which cards took the longest to complete. If you are using Corrello you can then click to expand the cards to see which lists they spent the most time in.

This can be a good place to start a conversation during your retrospective, looking at some of the slower cards and seeing if there was anything to be learned from them.

Comparing Cycle Time by Label

It can also be useful to filter the cycle time chart by label or points (if you are using them). In this way you can see how the cycle times behave for bugs separately from planned work etc.

Is Cycle Time steady over time?

Have a look at the trend of the 50% 85% and 95% lines, are they steady or going up/down over time?

Ideally your Cycle Time is steady or decreasing over time. Increasing Cycle Time means that cards are taking longer on average to complete. It would be a good idea to have a discussion with the team and see if there is something which is causing this which needs to be addressed.

Decreasing Cycle Time may indicate a positive change to your process is working out. Keep it up!

What are the 50% 85% and 95% lines?

Cycle time is often reported as an average across multiple cards. In this case we report the 50th, 85th and 95th Percentile.

If the 50th percentile is 10 days then that means 50% of cards were completed in 10 days or less.

If you are asked how long it will take to complete a card started today, you can say with 50% certainty it will be completed in 10 days or less. If whoever is asking needs something better than coin-toss odds (!) of being right, you could use the 85th or 95th percentile figure to have 85% or 95% chance of being correct.

If you are using Corrello  also take a look at the Cycle Times tab to see these Cycle Time percentiles, and a break down of how long cards spend in each list on average.

So that’s it, Cycle Time and Cycle Time (or Control) charts. This can be a great tool for helping your team ask good questions about their process during their retrospective.

If your team is using Trello and would like Cycle Time automatically calculated for them, check out the free trial for Corrello – Dashboards for Scrum and Kanban teams using Trello.

What is a Cumulative Flow Diagram (CFD)?

What is a Cumulative Flow Diagram?

A Cumulative flow diagram shows how many cards were in each list at the end of each day, and how many cards have been completed over time.

Cumulative Flow Diagram showing cards accumulating in Done and number of cards in other lists daily.Let’s take a look at how you can make the best use of this chart in your Scrum or Kanban team ☺️

How to use your CFD

There are a few things people look for in their CFD charts.

  1. Is WIP (Work In Progress) building up over time?
  2. Is the Backlog building up over time?
  3. Is work in any individual lists building up over time?
  4. Is work getting done at a constant rate?

Is WIP (Work In Progress) building up over time?

Hide the Completed and Backlog cards on your CFD. If you are using Corrello you can click in the legend to hide the done and backlog lists and show just the WIP.

Here we can see WIP building up over time. This means the team is starting new work before finishing their previous work.

CFD shwoing WIP increasing over time

WIP building up over time means work will be getting completed slower as more things are being worked on in parallel. It will also mean more context switching between tasks which can reduce the teams effectiveness.

If you are reviewing the CFD for a retrospective it may be interesting to ask if the team noticed anything about how they were working when WIP was increasing? Perhaps that matched a time they were under pressure to take on urgent work? Or were they blocked on many of their tasks?

If you are reviewing the CFD during a daily standup it may be interesting to ask the team if there are cards they can focus on getting completed today before adding more tasks? Check out the Slow Cards view in Corrello to see cards which have been in progress for a long time

If the team benefits from tracking WIP you could enable WIP limits in Trello using the (Free) Agile Tools power-up.

Is the Backlog building up over time?

Similar to tracking if WIP is growing, hide all but the backlog lists on your CFD.

Here we see a team where the backlog of work is growing faster than they are tackling it.

CFD showing Backlog increasing over time

The risk here is that the team is committing to work faster than they can deliver it. Over time people outside the team will start to notice that work the team commits to takes longer and longer to get done, as it must wait for more other cards to be completed before it even gets started.

It may be an idea to work with those who generate the work for the team to make sure they understand this, or even hold off on committing more work to the team.

Is work in any individual lists building up over time?

Check if work is building up in any one list.

CFD showing cards building up in one list

This may indicate a bottleneck developing at one point in the process. For example if you have a ‘testing’ list which has cards building up in it for the last week there is almost certainly a lack of resources for testing, or something blocking work at that point.

It would be good to look at that with the team and see if more people need to help with testing to get cards moving or if some blocker needs to be removed.

Also, are there steps downstream from the current bottleneck which will struggle to deal with the number of cards arriving when they all actually get done?

Is work getting done at a constant rate?

Ideally your CFD looks like a series of roughly parallel lines. This indicates that work enters and leaves each list at the same rate. However it isn’t uncommon to see a ‘saw tooth’ pattern with cards building up in one list then all moving on to the next step.

CFD showing 'saw tooth' pattern

While this may not be a problem it can often indicate that some steps of the process aren’t being actioned as fast as they could be. A typical example is a ‘Review’ step which someone checks every day or two. Cards build up there and then get moved on when someone takes the time to review them.

This can be a problem if those cards need more work and are sent back in the process. Someone will have already started on their next task. They now need to context switch back to the previous task. If that review is done asap once the card is initially done it is easier for them to fix any issues.

In conclusion…

So there we have it. What is a Cumulative Flow Diagram? And how you can use it in your daily standups and your retrospectives to help your team improve!

If your team is using Trello and would like a CFD automatically built for them, check out the free trial for Corrello – Dashboards for Scrum and Kanban teams using Trello.

Announcing Time In List for Trello

A couple of months back we launched a new Power-Up for Trello Time In List which does just one simple thing well. If you are after tracking the time cards spend in your Trello lists you should check out Time In List for Trello.

Some of the features

  • See on cards how long they have been in their current list
  • See on card backs how long they spent in past lists
  • Get charts of how long cards spend in all lists, for all cards or broken down by member or list

For more information check out the Time In List website or simply search for Time In List in the Trello Power-Up directory on your boards 🙂

Keep your team on track with a Burndown from Trello in your Slack channel each morning!

We have just announced a new improvement to allow Scrum teams to auto-post their Burndown charts into their Slack channel from Corrello.

Slack settings in Corrello

This builds on the previous Slack features which added three commands to your Slack channels:

/burndown
To retrieve a burndown chart for a dashboard.

/cfd
To retrieve a cumulative flow diagram for a dashboard.

/stats
To retrieve a the stats for a dashboard.

The new feature allows you to choose a channel in Slack and a time of the day to have your Burndown chart automatically posted for you. Maybe you want to see the Burndown chart first thing each morning so everyone knows where things are at before the stand up? Or if you are managing multiple teams maybe you could have a single channel to get all the burndowns in each morning. It’s up to you 🙂

You can check this out on any of your dashboards which have a burndown chart configured here.

Or if you aren’t currently using Corrello sign up for our FREE Trial to give it a go 🙂

Agile Tools for Trello – WIP Limits, Story points and and time in List

So… You want WIP Limits for your Trello boards? Story Points? Card time in List and slow card highlighting?

Well, you’re in the right place because we just launched the full V1 feature set of the Agile Tools Power-Up for Trello. Check it out!

Agile Tools for Trello feature overview

WIP Limits

Kanban teams limit their Work in Progress (WIP) to match the team’s capacity. This is usually set per list in Trello, ie we have separate limits for Coding, Code Review and Testing. Setting a WIP limit for a given list should not mean that the team cannot exceed the limit, but that if the limit is exceeded it is highlighted to the team. Agile Tools shows the WIP limits set for each list on the cards in the list, highlighting when the limit is met or exceeded with Amber/Red card badges.

Keep track of your WIP limits directly on your Trello boards, regardless of the browser your team members use.

WIP Limits for Trello

If you haven’t already split your process out by list (ie Dev, Code Review, Test) in Trello then this could be a good excuse to look at it.  Learn more about Agile Tools WIP Limits.

Story Points

Story points are often used by Scrum teams to estimate the effort required to complete some card or other.  It is the relative values of the points on one card to another which matters most with Story Points. They are typically limited to the Fibonacci numbers to ensure that differences of one or two points on large tasks don’t hold people up from just getting a good enough estimate down.

With the Agile Tools Power-Up you and your team can add story points to any cards from a control on the back of each card. Points are shown on the front and back of each card as well as totals for each list in the Agile Tools board menu.

Story Points for Trello

Lear more about Story Points in the Agile Tools Power-Up.

Card time in List and Slow card highlighting

Tracking how long cards have been in each list allows you to do a few clever things. Firstly, you can spot potential cycle time issues before they happen, getting cards which have been in a list a long time moving before they cause a problem. Also, you can see the cards which have been in backlog lists the longest. Is it time to move them out of the backlog? Or are they definitely still required?

The Agile Tools Power-Up annotates all Trello cards with details of how long they have been in their current list. We also highlight cards which have been in their current list ‘Too Long’ as defined by settings in your Corrello Dashboards. This is the only feature which requires a subscription to Corrello.

Card time in list for TrelloCard time in list for Trello- slow card highlighted

See full details about Card time in List for Trello.

That’s it for now.  Do check out and install the FREE Agile Tools Power-Up for Trello. And drop us a line if you’ve any suggestions for improvements 🙂

Daily briefing emails for Scrum teams using Trello

We’re all busy right? You’re busy, I’m busy, that go over there… what’s he even doing? well, at least he’s busy!

Too often we’re too busy for our own good though and can’t take the time to get the information we need to make the most of our days. Enter Corrello’s small move to help you get the information you need at the start of every day. The Daily Scrum team briefing email!

All Scrum teams using Corrello now get this email each morning (around 8am), No need to miss the important information you need to act on because you haven’t got time to open Corrello.

Not a Corrello customer? check out our Free Trial.

In this email you can see

  • Top line stats about cards completed, added, removed and re-estimated in the current sprint
  • The current Burndown chart, are you on target for the sprint?
  • The cards in progress, where they are and how long they have been in progress for
  • Cards added, removed, re-estimated and completed

This makes it super easy to keep on top of things going on in your boards and to never miss an important change again, even if you don’t have time to check Corrello every morning.

If you are a Scrum team using Corrello you should start receiving these emails soon. If you aren’t currently using Corrello why not check out our Free Trial?

Tracking slow cards in Trello

I am excited to announce we have just added slow card tracking in Corrello. You can use this to track any cards in Trello which have got stuck in progress for longer than usual in any list.

We also show the average card age per list:

This is all very easy to configure. By default it shows cards as slow if they have been in the list longer than the 85 percentile line for recent cycle times. You can override that and choose you own time for each list though if you prefer.

This is great for finding cards which are stuck for some reason of for heading off cycle time issues before they happen.

Check this out on your Corrello Dashboards or sign up for a Free Trial if you aren’t already a customer.

Announcing the Trello agile tools power-up (story points, WIP plus more)

Finally, story points in a Trello Power-Up! Plus more! coming soon! 🙂

We have just released our latest Trello Power-Up, called ‘Agile Tools’. It is all about bringing features for Agile teams into a single Trello Power-Up you can install and use for free without any Corrello subscription. Find it in the Trello Power-Ups directory on the Menu in the top right on your Trello boards.

The first feature adds Story Points to your cards. Much like the popular ‘Scrum for Trello’ browser plugin except this works as a Power-Up within Trello itself.

On top of that, if you have been using the Scrum for Trello Power-Up we can import your points data over from Scrum for Trello into our new Power up.

Check out all the features here GetCorrello.com/AgileTools

In the near future we will be adding WIP limits and slow card highlighting. If you have any suggestions for features you would like to see please let us know in the comments 🙂

Filter Cycle times for your Trello boards by Label

Yeeehaaaa!

I am excited to finally announce that you can now filter your Control chart and Cycle times by label in Corrello, check it out!

Cycle times are a great tool, but sometimes you want to be able to get cycle times not just as a whole across the team but broken down by class of task. For example, what is your cycle time for bugs? Or for all tasks except ‘Production server’ ones? Or just the enhancements?

All that and more is now possible in Corrello. You can view the Control chart and cycle times as a total of all cards in the date range selected, or just for certain selected labels. Or even for cards with no labels.

You can check this out now on your own dashboards, simply log in to your dashboards. Or if you don’t currently have an account feel free to sign up to give it a go.

Watch this space for plenty more improvements in the coming months!

Communicating team performance to your boss

Measuring the performance of a development team is notoriously difficult. People have tried using lines of code, function points and other more complex measures. Some still rely on tracking the hours developers spend in the office as the key measure of value produced :). Even when you trust everyone is working their best it is still a struggle to see if a team is more or less productive one month to the next, because they never produce the same thing twice. Yet we’d still like to know, and so would those we report to.

Today we will look at two pieces of data and how to explain those to your boss so they can see the improving (or consistently high) performance your team is achieving.

Using cycle time to explain improvements to your boss

Take a look at these figures from the previous post about removing bottlenecks in our process.


The total time in progress here shows that if your boss asks how long a random card will take you can tell them with 50% certainty that it will be done in a week. Maybe they want to be more certain than a coin toss that you will deliver on time? In that case you will need to estimate 1 ½ months to get to 95% certainty!

Now imagine in 6 months time if after a lot of work and improvement our numbers look like this


Now we can tell our boss that if they pick a random card and ask how long it will take to complete you can be 95% certain it will be completed in 2 weeks or less. On top of that, half of the cards worked on get completed in under 2 days.

Now your boss may think they can get work done this fast already, the point here is that these times are delivered by the team without any disruption to their process. It is possible now that boss requests are expedited at the cost of other tasks. No one really wants that.

Explaining things like this is something people outside of development teams can often appreciate. Knowing they can ask for something to be done and have a high level of certainty it can be delivered 2 weeks later without it disrupting the teams work is good to know. I am sure your boss would agree that going from nearly 7 weeks to deliver something to 2 weeks would make a huge difference to the businesses ability to deliver work on time and react to changes. That might be a good time to bring up your team’s next bonus 🙂

Obviously there could questions around relative card size or complexity. While it could be that the team is working on smaller tasks (no bad thing in itself) there is a limit to how far those improvements can go. This is where the CFD comes in, to help show how we got these improvements.

Using the CFD to show your process improvements

Let’s look at two CFDs. This first one which suggests a few things we should look to improve in our process.


What we can see here are frequent buildups of work in various parts of our process. A few questions spring to mind here, e.g. does code review always need to take so long? The same could be asked of the ‘Ready for deploy’ list.

Now if we take that as the before picture you can show your boss, here is the after picture some months down the line.


Here we have done three things:

1. Reduced the number of cards in the code review and ready for deploy lists.

This is probably one of the most impactful changes in this CFD. If you tell people that you now get work done 3x as fast as before they may not believe it. Yet if you show them that time spent on these cards previously was mostly spent waiting in these lists, and that you have reduced that time down they can see how it was achieved. By getting cards out of those lists faster you have sped up the whole process end to end.

2. Dramatically reduced the scale of the buildups of work in all of the lists

Reducing the scale of buildups should be understood as a good thing since it means people are not getting overloaded with too much work as those lumps work their way through the system. This has an impact both on quality and the ability for cards to get quickly through the process.

3. Reduced the amount of work in progress in total

Finally, by reducing the total amount of work in progress you let the team focus on delivering a smaller amount of work all at once. Rather than context switching and trying to focus on too many things at the same time. This again allows them to get cards completed faster.

To summarise, showing improved performance with Corrello comes down to

  1. Showing that the average time from starting work on a card to completing it has been reduced. And that you can now say with 95% certainty for some randomly selected card that it will be done in X days.
  2. Showing how those changes came about with the change in the CFD chart.

It’s still a little technical, but it’s backed up with actual data about your team. Hopefully it gets the message across that these improvements are real. And, once you have the performance you want it is still useful to be able to show these numbers and charts as evidence things continue to work well.

If you’ve read this far and you’ve not got a Corrello account you should try out our 14 day FREE trial.

 

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