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SAFe Flow Metrics – The A to Z to Know

You might be aware that SAFe aids bigger organizations to meet their strategic goals. As against many frameworks helping businesses to focus on individual projects, SAFe is different.

What is Metrics?

In general, metrics is a term used for denoting a standard or system of measurement. In the business arena, metrics are pre-decided measures. They help with evaluating how well a business moves forward towards a portfolio or a large solution.

When you take the case of business agility, it sets a new set of performance standards for businesses. These standards need an effective and quick response to upcoming business opportunities. Nevertheless, to improve agility and speed, teams, leaders and stakeholders require a method. This method should help them dependably evaluate the present state. So, the set of rules on how and what to evaluate is a crucial enabler of the ongoing improvement of the performance of a business. This set of rules is metric for any business. 

What is Flow in SAFe?

Flow is the measure of how efficient a business performs when it comes to delivering value. 

When you take the case of Flow Framework created by Mik Kersten, it offers five metrics. The purpose of these metrics is to measure varied elements of flow. SAFe is a flow-based system. In turn, each of these metrics suggested by Flow Framework applies to SAFe. Further, SAFe also explains Flow Predictability as a concept. The goal of this concept is to evaluate how Solution Trains, ARTs and teams deliver against the planned goals. As per SAFe, you can get to know the six metrics from the image below:

Source: Scaled Agile Inc.

In short, Flow Metrics as per Flow Framework is something that provides a clear picture. From the picture, you can know whether the value stream flow is enough. It should be sufficient for supporting targeted business results like employee engagement, customer satisfaction, cost, and revenue. These metrics evaluate the rate of business value delivery. These evaluations are done through the lens of your consumers including external and internal.

 Let us throw some light on how SAFe is a flow-based system:

How is SAFe a Flow-based System?

Larger organizations look to gain more knowledge into their growth. They also wish to know about visibility from their business perspective. They always intend to know whether they are moving on the right path. To help businesses find answers to these questions, SAFe 5.1 pays attention to three core metrics. They are:

1. Outcomes: Outcomes will let you know whether your solutions meet the needs of your customers and even your business.

2. Competency: Are you well-aware of the practices that deliver customer value?

3. Flow: How efficiently your business delivers value to the customers.

These three metrics will provide your business with a scalable model. This model will be a comprehensive and simple measurement model too. Above all, you can apply this model at each level in your enterprise that follows SAFe practices.

When you think of SAFe as a map for your business, Flow Metrics can act as the GPS to the map. So, you can very well understand the importance of Flow Metrics in SAFe.

The Six SAFe Flow Metrics Explained:
1. Flow Distribution:

This metric evaluates the amount of each kind of work in a system over a time frame. This could encompass the balance of new business features concerning Enabler Work. It evaluates work to resolve defects and risk mitigation too. 

2. Flow Velocity:

The purpose of Flow Velocity is to measure whether there is an acceleration in the value delivery. In other words, it denotes the number of flow items completed throughout a particular point in time. In SAFe Flow Metrics, you can call flow velocity measures the throughput of the system.

It is important because, from higher velocity, you can understand that there is high output. It indicates that the process improvement measures are applied properly. In turn, delays in the system are reduced. When there are considerable drops in velocity, it is an indication that investigation should be carried out.

3. Flow Time:

This metric aims to measure time to market. Particularly, it will evaluate the time elapsed from the beginning of the work to the work completed. It will consider not only active times but also wait times during this evaluation.

This metric makes sure that the teams and the entire organization pay attention only to what is important. In turn, they can deliver value to the customers and business within the shortest possible time. As you can understand, the shorter the flow time, the fewer times customers of the business will spend waiting for new features. Even, it denotes a lower cost of delay to the organization.

4. Flow Load:

Flow Load keeps an eye on the under and over utilization of value streams. The reason is that these metrics can lower the overall productivity of an organization. It evaluates the number of flow items that are presently in progress. It will consider both waiting and active items. These things will be considered within a particular point in time to judge the results.

This metric is important among SAFe Flow Metrics because when there is an increase in the flow load, it is an indicator of excess work in progress. When this happens, you can expect a probable result. Yes, there might be an increase in the flow times. The reason is that queues begin to build up in the system. So, evaluating and reducing flow load is crucial. Further, it is easy to know how frequent delivery brings down flow load. It will improve flow velocity and time.

5. Flow Efficiency:

This metric in Flow Framework measures wastes in a value stream. Out of the total flow time, it is the ratio of active time out. To be precise, it evaluates the overall flow time spent in value-added activities related to work vs. Waiting between steps.

Let us consider that a system is yet to be optimized in an organization. In this case, the flow efficiency will be at its bare minimum. You can find it often in single digits. When the flow efficiency is low, it is an indication that a lot of time has been wasted. Even, it will indicate the delays and hindrances that are to be addressed. On the other hand, if you see higher flow efficiency, it means that the system is able to deliver value swiftly.

6. Flow Predictability:

Flow Framework actually recommends only 5 metrics. This sixth metric called Flow Predictability is recommended by SAFe. It is a metric that will show how efficiently the teams are able to plan and meet their Performance Indicating goals.

In SAFe Flow Metrics, flow predictability is measured through the SAFe Program Predictability Measure shortly called PPM. It evaluates the ratio of planned business value achieved to real business value delivered in a Performance Indicator. What if you get to see erratic or low predictability? It means that your business has unrealistic delivery commitments. Also, it will help you identify issues with your organizational performance. Issues with planning and technology can also be known. So, you can take steps to resolve them. Dependable trains must function in the 80-100 percent range. This will permit your business and its stakeholders to plan things effectively. 

Now, you know how the SAFe Flow Metrics will help your business achieve a lot.

Critical Success Factors for Effective Measurement:

In any business, measuring the overall performance is one of the most sensitive things. The reason is that every business has its own dysfunctions. Also, measurement involves data interpretation unavoidably. So, there is every chance of alignment disconnects, communication issues and even cognitive bias. All these things can carry considerable risk to any measurement system. However, this will happen only when the system is not properly implemented.

Considering the above-mentioned factors, SAFe recommends four crucial factors to ensure effective measurement:

1. Use of measurement in line with other discovery tools will help.

2. Apply metrics in whichever place possible to ensure better decision-making.

3. Gain knowledge on metrics on behaviors

4. Careful interpretation of metrics will help.

Conclusion:

Are you wondering if your business is far down the SAFe road? Do you think that you are losing your way? Nothing to worry about! You can still find your bearings. In turn, you can reach your destination. You have made a very good decision to use Scale Agile in your organization. Here, SAFe Flow Metrics can further help you develop your progress. They will ensure that you are rewarded for all those efforts from your end. It will not be an overstatement to say that focusing on flow can enthuse and inspire your teams. The reason is that they are clear of the objective of SAFe. The goal is to bring more value for the business with less-stressed and happier teams.

References:
  1. https://flowframework.org/flow-metrics/
  2. https://www.scaledagileframework.com/metrics/
  3. https://www.scaledagileframework.com/blog/new-safe-metrics-guidance-measuring-outcomes-flow-and-competency/

Author

Paula

Is a passionate learner and blogger on Agile, Scrum and Scaling areas. She has been following and practicing these areas for several years and now converting those experiences into useful articles for your continuous learning.