Days to First Value

My second conversation with an agile sponsor is inevitably… metrics. I stopped feeling surprised after a half dozen engagements.  To me the metrics were obvious. Constant, fast delivery makes it easy to track your customers happiness and buying decisions.  Constant feedback loops help people make better business decisions faster. I witnessed this for years. My observational evidence though is an act of faith for new agile organizations. They need their own evidence. Evidence is powerful. Measurements and trends are powerful, and most organizations want to track what is important to them.

Days to First Value

Over time I’ve helped people develop several metrics that work for them. Days to First Value, passed on to me by my colleague Steve Fastabend through his work at Northwestern Mutual, has proved invaluable.  It works. It works at multiple levels of an organization and for multiple purposes. Did you get enough emphasis on the ‘multiple’?  As Alton Brown says No Unitaskers.

How it works

  1. Choose something to consistently track. A piece of work like a product backlog item, feature, epic, project, defect, customer service call….anything.
  2. Decide on a trigger.
  3. Decide when you get your first value from it.
  4. Measure the time between with a goal to reduce it

Examples at Multiple Levels

  • Business Question: How effective is our live customer service?

    A customer call center decides to track incoming support calls from [Pickup] to [Completed Transaction]. This helps them measure how quickly they get a curious or blocked customer to a transaction of value, whether on the phone or redirected online. Measure days, hours or minutes to first value.

  • Business Question: How quickly does our team produce value?

    A Scrum team decides to track features from [Acceptance at Sprint Planning] to [Confirmed earliest use of that feature in production].  This helps measure their value-sense; decomposing the feature for early value, producing enough for the Product Owner to release and their customers to want to use, and the quality and release practices that allow quick delivery.

  • Business Question: How quickly are we getting a return on investment?

    A portfolio management team decides to track Epics from [Funded] to [Confirmed earliest use in production]. This helps them use Throughput Accounting measurements and watch how efficiently the system uses money.


  • Make clear definitions of Ready for the Trigger and Done for first value
  • Capture it for every piece of work. I’ve seen teams use stickers, marks, and built-in timers. the methods are endless.
  • Make this a constant measure. Its easier to track and attribute changes in Days to First Value if its measured all the time.


I hope this was helpful.  If you have questions, or want to talk more about implementing this metric in your organization please call or email. 281-520-8750 . I enjoy talking about metrics.

As always, I am curious about your experience.  Please share. Do you use this metric today? Do you apply it differently? Do you use a metric like this one?  How do you use the data?




So you’ve got the green light to build an agile team. Congratulations! Building an agile team is an adventure for everyone involved.

This post is intended to provide steps you can take in order to build a self-organized agile team while also accelerating the value of self-organized, cross-functional teams from the moment they become a team.

Why is this important?

Cross-functional teams deliver working software within one team and one sprint, every sprint.  Self-organizing teams increase quality and reduce risk by owning responsibility for maintainable, sustainable and fit for purpose software.

Valuable working software, every sprint, shouts of a self-organized and cross-functional team. Continue reading

The Audit Path – Staying Agile within an SDLC

In an ideal Agile environment you are a small, quick organization full of smart people who are experts in their field.  This is an uncommon ideal. The more common scenario is a large or well established business that sees agile as a way to become more relevant to their customers.  These organizations come pre-packaged with processes and procedures around software development, security, and privacy.  In short they already have an SDLC (software development life cycle).

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Documentation – What does it mean?

“Working Software over comprehensive documentation” The Agile Manifesto

Lately my team has struggled with the agile principle of minimal documentation. They have adopted the attitude, see the sense of it, and have gleefully thrown off the expectation that they should be doing any documentation that does not contribute to working software.

But we need it…

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User Stories – Making the sacred cow useful for your team

User Stories are an artifact of SCRUM, a common but not ubiquitous methodology built on Agile Principles.  As a Scrum Master and Agile coach, I guide the team on User Story creation and adherence to the Agile Manifesto and Principles.  I’ve found in a few projects that User Stories can sometimes get in the way of the work, violating Principle Ten,

Simplicity, the art of maximizing the work Not done is essential.

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Empowered Developers: Strength to Your User Persona!

Copyright Fusion Alliance

Agile principles put the power of quality and the definition of ‘enough’ in the hands of developers. Yes, the Product Owner and Stakeholders get final say, but the best way to optimize your developers’ strength is to give them the power to make decisions about how to best fulfill a User Story. The Agile principle is clear: “The best architectures, requirements, and designs emerge from self-organizing teams.”

My interpretation of this principle is that empowering a team allows them to create beyond your expectations. One oft-overlooked empowerment tool is the User Persona. Here is an example developed by our User Experience team:


Social Media Governance in Regulated Industries – Part 4 – Local Processes

Many social media projects face the trailblazers conundrum. None of their company’s policies or procedures was written with social media or community networking in mind.  Best practices are rare and guidance from corporate governance is nearly nonexistent.  You face the added challenge of being the experiment while trying to be responsible, successful, and accountable.  You will never be able to mitigate all the risk and uncertainty from that situation.  What you can do is be proactive and address what you need to be successful and accountable.  Local processes that are the “right thing to do” and vetted by the team using them are ideal for this purpose.

Aside from documenting your process according to the guidelines in the previous post, our experience with local processes is very simple and can be boiled down to a few rules.


The first question you should ask is: Do I need this procedure to “do the right thing” and to show others in the company that we are “doing the right thing?” Generally, if it fills an un-addressed gap in global procedure, mitigates a risk identified at the Project Charter stage, or provides a wrapper for ongoing inventories of exceptions or content, it is worth it. If you are reasonably covered by existing work practices and corporate compliance requirements then think hard about adding another layer of complexity to what you maintain.  Can you be accountable and transparent with what you already have?  The exposure of social media provides much of the transparency on its own. Continue reading