Measuring lead and cycle times from your Trello boards

Tracking your lead and cycle times helps you to understand how quickly your cards move across your Trello board. If the cards represent user stories, you can answer questions like

How long will it take to deliver a feature to end users after adding it to the backlog?

and

How long does it take to have a feature available for delivery once work is started?

Lead time measures the total time it takes for work to move through the workflow, from the moment the work is requested to the moment it’s delivered, including time it stays in queues. Cycle time measures how long the team actually works on the task.

 

Setting up a workflow in Trello

Trello is very flexible when it comes to how your workflow is set up. In order to measure lead and cycle times, your board has to exhibit a flow of tasks through three states:

Not started - work that has not yet been started

In progress - work that has been started but not completed

Done - work that has been completed 

Each of these states can correspond to one or more lists in your Trello board. In the sample board below, the In progress state consists of Doing, Review, and Waiting for deployment lists (click to enlarge).  

In this board, there is one list that contains tasks that are not started: Sprint backlog. That represents the Not started state. 

Once the work is started on a task, the card progresses through Doing, Review, and Waiting for Deployment lists. Those represent the In progress state. 

Once the task is completed, the card is moved to the Done list, which represents the Done state. 

Cards progress from left to right as the team pulls them from Sprint backlog into the Doing list, and ultimately moves them to the Done list when the task is fully completed.

Now that we have our Trello board set up we can start measuring how quickly cards are moving through our workflow.


Screenful Power-Up for Trello

Screenful Power-Up is an extension to Trello that turns it into a powerful agile workflow tool. One of its features is reporting lead times and cycle times. You can activate the Screenful Power-Up from the right side menu of your Trello board (Show menu -> Power-Ups).

Once you've activated the Power-Up, you'll be asked to map the lists in your board to Not started, In progress, and Done states. 

Once you've mapped your workflow, Screenful reads your card history and constructs a dashboard showing your average lead time and cycle time for the previous 30 days. 

You can drill in to this data and see metrics per specific label or assignee. You can also adjust the date range shown and view trends. 

Click the video to see it in action!


Summary

Lead time and cycle time are useful metrics for understanding how long it takes for tasks to progress through your workflow. Cycle time and lead time reports show the average number of days and hours spent on each task, and as such, they’re a pretty good measure of the overall agility of your team.

What can you do with this data? Let's consider a situation where your team is being asked by business owners how long it takes to implement certain functionality. Instead of just making a guess, the team can look at the data to see how long it has taken in the past to complete similar tasks, and provide a data-driven estimate.


By Sami Linnanvuo

Sami is the founder & CEO of Screenful, the company that turns data into visual stories. You can find him on Twitter @sl1nna