Why prefer PR Cycle Time as a Metric over Velocity?

PR cycle time and velocity are two commonly used metrics for measuring the efficiency and effectiveness of software development teams. These metrics help estimate how long your teams can complete a piece of work.

But, among these two, PR cycle time is often prioritized and preferred over velocity.

Therefore, in this blog, we understand the difference between these two metrics. Further, we will dive into the reason behind the PR cycle time over the velocity metric.

What is the PR Cycle Time?

PR cycle time measures the process efficiency. In other words, it is the measurement of how much time it takes for your team to complete individual tasks from start to finish. It let them identify bottlenecks in the software development process and implement changes accordingly. Hence, allowing development work to flow smoother and faster through the delivery process.

Benefits of PR Cycle Time

Assess Efficiency

PR Cycle time lets team members understand how efficiently they are working. A shorter PR cycle time means developers are spending less time waiting for code reviews and integration of code. Hence, indicates a high level of efficiency.

Faster Time-to-Market

A shorter PR Cycle time means that features or updates can be released to end-users sooner. As a result, it helps them to stay competitive and meet customer demands.

Improves Agility

Short PR Cycle time is a key component of agile software development. Hence, allows team members to adapt to changing requirements more easily.

What is Velocity?

Velocity is the measurement of team efficiency. It estimates how many story points an agile team can complete within a sprint. This metric is usually measured in weeks. As a result, it helps developer teams to plan and decide how much work to include in future sprints. But, the downside is that it doesn’t consider the quality of work or the time it takes to complete individual tasks.

Benefits of Velocity

Effective Resource Allocation

By understanding development velocity, engineering managers and stakeholders can allocate resources more effectively. Hence, it ensures that development teams are neither overburdened or underutilized.

Improves Collaboration and Team Morale

When velocity improves, it gives team members a sense of satisfaction from constantly delivering high-quality products. Hence, it improves their morale and allows them to collaborate with each other effectively.

Identify Bottlenecks

A decline in velocity metrics signifies potential issues within the development process which includes team conflicts or technical debt. Hence, it allows us to address the issues early to maintain productivity.

PR Cycle Time over Velocity: Know the ‘Why’ Behind it

PR Cycle Time Cannot be Easily Manipulated

PR cycle time is a more objective unit of measurement compared to story points in the production process. While many organizations use story points to estimate time-bound work since it is subjective. Hence, it is easy to manipulate. To increase velocity, you have to overestimate how long it will take to complete the task and therefore, add a larger number to your issue tracker.

Although PR cycle time may also be manipulated, it is most likely to work in your favor. By this, lowering the cycle time allows you to complete the work measurably faster. This further allows you to identify and fix blind spots quickly.

As a result, PR cycle time is a more challenging and tangible goal.

PR Cycle Time Helps in Predictability and Planning

PR cycle time, an essential component of continuous improvement, improves your team’s ability to plan and estimate work. It gives you an accurate picture of how long it will take to move through the development process. Hence, offering real-time visibility and insights into a developer’s task. This further allows you to predict and forecast future work. In case, if the issue goes on longer than expected, you can discuss it with your team on a prior basis.

In the case of velocity, it cannot help in figuring out the why behind the work that took longer than expected. Hence, further planning and predicting the work accordingly wouldn’t be possible in this case.

PR Cycle Time Helps in Identifying Outliers

Outliers are the units of work that take significantly longer than the average. PR cycle time metric is more reliable than the velocity in spotting outliers and anomalies in software development. It is because it measures the time it takes to complete a single unit of work. Therefore, PR cycle time helps in knowing the specific causes of delays in work.

Moreover, it also helps in getting granular insights into the development process. Hence, allowing your engineering team to improve their performance.

PR Cycle Time is Directly Connected to the Business Results

Among velocity and PR cycle time metrics, only the latter is directly related to business outcomes. It is a useful metric that determines how fast you can ship value to your customers; allowing you to improve speed and their planning accurately.

Moreover, cycle time is a great metric for continuously improving your team’s ability to iterate quickly. As it can help in spotting bottlenecks, inefficiencies, and areas of improvement in their processes.

How Typo measure PR Cycle Time?

Measuring cycle time using Jira or other project management tools is a manual and time-consuming process, which requires reliable data hygiene to deliver accurate results. Unfortunately, most engineering leaders have insufficient visibility and understanding of their teams’ cycle time.

Typo provides instantaneous cycle time measurement for both your organization and each development team using your Git provider.

Our methodology divides cycle time into four phases:

  • The coding time is calculated from the initial commit to the creation of a pull request or merge request.
  • The pickup time is measured from the PR creation to the beginning of the review.
  • Review time is calculated from the start of the review to when the code is merged, and
  • Merge time is measured from when the code is merged to when it is released.

The subsequent phase involves analyzing the various aspects of your cycle time, including the organizational, team, iteration, and even branch levels. For instance, if an iteration has an average review time of 47 hours, you will need to identify the branches that are taking longer than usual and work with your team to address the reasons for the delay.

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But, Does it Mean Only PR Cycle Time is to be Considered?

PR cycle time shouldn’t be the sole metric to measure software development productivity. If you do so, it would mean compromising other aspects of the software development product. Hence, you can balance it with other metrics such as DORA metrics (Deployment frequency, Lead time for change, Change failure rate and Time to restore service) too.

You can familiarize yourself with the SPACE framework when thinking about metrics to adopt in your organization. It is a research-based framework that combines quantitative and qualitative aspects of the developer and the surroundings to give a holistic view of the software development process.

At Typo, we consider the above-mentioned metrics to measure the efficiency and effectiveness of software engineering teams. Through these metrics, you can gain real-time visibility into SDLC metrics, identify bottlenecks and drive continuous improvements.