Flow metrics

4 minute read

Flow metrics is a framework that connects business strategy with software delivery, by providing a view of value flow and correlating it with expected business outcomes. In the CloudBees platform, flow metrics helps organizations measure business performance, from customer request to software delivery.

By monitoring flow metrics, you can have improved predictability, bottleneck identification, better risk management, and more cost-effective software delivery.

The CloudBees platform calculates five flow metrics that measure how value flows through a product value stream, as follows:

Table 1. Flow metrics definitions
Metric Description

Work load

Number of flow items currently in progress

Work items distribution

Proportion of each flow item type


Number of completed flow items

Cycle time

Time it takes to complete a flow item from start to finish


Percentage of active time vs total cycle time

CloudBees categorizes work tasks for a given product value stream into four flow item types:

  • Feature (a business value)

  • Risk (possible lack of security or compliance)

  • Bugs (a coding defect)

  • Tech debt (a potential blocker to future delivery)

A flow item is considered to be in progress if it is started but not yet complete. The total time for a flow item to complete includes both time spent actively working on the flow item, and time spent in waiting, such as for a code review or approval.

Access and filter flow metrics

Flow metrics data helps you measure the effectiveness of your business in delivering value. Filter on a workflow group and a timeline duration.

To access and filter flow metrics views:

  1. Select the next to Analytics on the left pane, and then select DORA and flow metrics insights.

You are displaying flow metric views, listed according to any sorting, filtering, or searching you have done.

Explore work load, work items distribution, and velocity

flow metrics
Figure 1. Example Work load, Work items distribution and Velocity charts.
  1. Work load: Review the work load of the team for a selected period. Work load measures the number of flow items currently in progress within a specific value stream, which is an indicator of productivity. An increasing work load suggests excess work in progress, which can lead to future increases in flow item completion time. Frequent software delivery reduces work load and improves cycle time and velocity. In this example, for the selected component and duration 290 work items are in progress: the sum of bugs, feature, risk and tech debt.

    • Select the total average number of work items in progress link to display a list of flow item type that includes:

      • Issue ID

      • Issue type

      • Summary

      • Assigned to

      • Issue created

      • Flow item type

  2. Work items distribution: The distribution of completed work item types for the selected duration. Work items distribution measures the proportion of each flow item type, over time, in a given value stream. Monitoring work items distribution helps prioritize specific types of work during different product lifecycle stages. For new business features, this helps to balance the mitigation of risk, bugs, and technical debt.

    flow metrics
    Figure 2. Example Work items distribution chart.

    The graph above indicates that 89% of team effort is on feature and 11% is on bugs.

  3. Velocity: Throughput of the value stream, measured as the number of completed flow items within a given time frame. An increase in velocity over time signals that productivity is improving. Tracking velocity is helpful to forecast software delivery rates, and to uncover any problems at an early stage. In this example, 241 work items are completed, by type.

    flow metrics
    Figure 3. Example Velocity chart.

    The above graph indicates that for the particular date, the team has worked on 70 bugs and 31 features, and has not worked on any risk or tech debt items.

Explore cycle time, and work efficiency

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Figure 4. Example Cycle time and Work efficiency charts.
  1. Cycle time: The sum of active work time and wait time. Cycle time gauges time to market by measuring how long it takes to complete a flow item from start to finish, including both active and wait times. As you increase the speed of your software delivery, you reduce the cycle time. With detailed data of flow item completion times, you can predict future cycle times with confidence, and better understand the efficiency of your value stream. This example displays the average time taken to create and then close an issue in Jira.

    flow metrics
    Figure 5. Example Cycle time chart

    The above graph indicates that on average for the selected duration, two days were spent on fixing bugs, and seven days on feature.

  2. Work efficiency: The average active work time. The graph displays that 62% is the average active work time and 38% is the work wait time.

    flow metrics
    Figure 6. Example Work efficiency chart

    The above graph indicates that for:

    • Bugs, 76% is active time, with the remaining 24% wait time.

    • Feature, 75% is active time, with the remaining 25% wait time.

    • The 38% Work wait time, 22% is spent on code review, and 15% on blocked.

    • Select the total average active work time link to display a list of flow item type that includes:

      • Issue ID

      • Issue type

      • Summary

      • Active time

      • Waiting time

      • Efficiency

      • Flow item type