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Use Data from Velocity to Run More Effective Retrospectives

Natalie Breuer

By: Natalie Breuer
January 19, 2021

Effective retrospectives are an important opportunity to provide guidance and invest in your team’s future. Though the discussions you have during retros will surface areas of friction or frustration, you may find that anecdotal evidence and gut feel don’t provide enough information. It can be hard to know how to help your team without a concrete means of gauging why developers are struggling (or succeeding).

Leverage data from a Software Engineering Intelligence platform like Velocity, and you’ll be able to transform your retros into valuable opportunities for learning about team members and how they function within your engineering process. With this information, you’ll be able to run more effective retrospectives by offering relevant support, setting more specific goals, and ensuring your retro action items drive improvement.

Uncover Data-backed Insights

To get a sense for how your team is doing, use Velocity to determine if your engineers are trending up or down over time for the following PR-based metrics:

  1. Cycle Time, which indicates the time between when the first commit is authored and when a PR is merged. This metric can be used as your team’s speedometer. Aim for a Cycle Time of under 2 days.
  2. Time to Open, which is defined as the time between the earliest commit in a Pull Request and when the Pull Request is opened. Top-performing teams take less than half a day on average to open a PR.
  3. Review Cycles, or the number of times a Pull Request has gone back and forth between the author and reviewer. Note that keeping your average Review Cycles below 1.3 keeps your team in the top 50% of engineering organizations.
  4. Time to Merge, or the duration between when a Pull Request is opened and when it is merged.

Set Quantifiable Goals

To make your learning actionable, head to the Targets page, select your metric, and define a goal. In this case, we’ll aim to keep 90% of Code Reviews to one Cycle. When Review Cycles are high, it can mean one of three things:

  • There are differing opinions about what “done” means.
  • There’s misalignment around what kind of changes are expected to come out of the review process.
  • There are conflicting ideas about how a solution should be implemented.
target view in Velocity

You can hover over the interactive column chart to see how often your team hit their goal. Selecting any week that didn’t meet an SLA will bring up a drill-down of all the underlying data points (commits, PRs, or reviews), so you can investigate the source of the issue.

In the above example, there are 12 PRs that you can dig into. Leverage this data to investigate places where your goals weren’t achieved and to offer guidance where necessary.

Data is Key to Driving Improvement with Effective Retrospectives

With the right data, you’ll be able to objectively assess your team’s progress and find concrete opportunities for advancement. Combine that with qualitative feedback from your team, and it’s possible to hold retros that effectively surface issues and point towards possible solutions.

Speak to one of our specialists about Velocity, and find out how data can help you drive progress on your engineering team.

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