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In today's fast-paced world, change and adaptation is the name of the game. You don't just have to be right; you also have to be first if you want to maintain your competitive edge. And that means adapting the practices, processes, and methodologies that allow you to fast track everything, whether it's developing a new product or improving an existing one. The faster you can change, the quicker you can grow.

This isn’t just true for software development, but this is where it’s more important. This is why agile methodology and DevOps practices dominate the industry. Be it app development or refining enterprise software, time is of the essence.

And that’s what brings us to cycle rates.

The What, Why, and How of Cycle Rates

Cycle rates, or more accurately, cycle time and lead time, are essential time-based metrics used to track how fast a task is being accomplished when it comes to software development. If your developers are taking weeks to accommodate a user story, the reason might not be just the complexity of the task but how they approach it. Fast cycle rates are vital to expediting the development process.

What They Are

Before we get into the definitions, understand that the following terms are not exclusive to software development. They can be used in a wide variety of project management scenarios.

Cycle Time: Cycle time is the time it takes to finish a product or complete a process from start to finish. For a development team, it can start from coding, testing, debugging, QA and release, or just coding, review or release (however, your developers can break down the process).

Lead Time: Lead time is a superset of cycle time. When you track your lead time, the clock starts from when you “Receive” the request from a client, not when you start working on it. The clock ends once you release the product. In some cases, cycle times and lead-time are the same, but not always. Let’s say you order a burrito at a food truck. Your lead time will start as soon as you order. The cycle time will start when the chef actually starts preparing your burrito. If there is no queue and the chef starts preparing your burrito as soon as you order, the lead time = cycle time. Otherwise, the lead time is longer.

Why Cycle Time Matters?

Cycle time and lead time are two of the most important metrics when it comes to software development and DevOps. The difference between the two-cycle rates might not matter to a client. For them, what matters is how long it takes a development team to finish the job, which is typically the lead time since they start looking at the stopwatch as soon as they report a problem or request a feature.

The cycle time and lead time matter because they determine how fast/efficient developers are at handling a single task (or one sprint, if they are following the SCRUM framework). It also determines how efficient they are at breaking a larger job into small, feasible and quick-turn elements and dealing with a massive queue and multiple requests at once.

To a client, the cycle rates are crucial because they give them a clean-cut and comprehensible idea of a development team’s “Speed” (for lack of a better word). They get an idea of the average time a development team would take to resolve a ticket and to complete a task. This helps them make up their mind and choose a team that matches the speed and responsiveness they need to keep their software or apps running and improving. For example, organizations that are developing or deploying massive enterprise software typically seek developers with low cycle rates. This allows them to chisel down their software to perfection without spending a lot of time.

How We Keep Cycle Rates Low?

Now that you understand what cycle rates are or why they matter, you probably understand that it’s in your best interest to keep your cycle rates low. How can you do it? It’s pretty simple:

Contact us.

It may seem a bit presumptuous and over-confident, but believe us, it's just the right amount of confidence.

For starters, our time to resolve a ticket is on the low end of the industry average. Where most development teams take somewhere between four (highly efficient) to seven (modestly efficient) hours to resolve a ticket, we strive to keep it under four hours for all our tickets.

And we do it by efficiently planning all the tasks right from the beginning. It starts with breaking down the user story, a bug we might need to fix, or a feature request from our clients into predictable (and doable) tasks. Predictable because we don’t want our cycle time stretching beyond four hours. Through proper deliberation, we ensure that each developer handles around 6 to 7 tasks a day. And that's something we start from the very beginning when we are defining the scope of a project and assigning workload to our developers working for each of our clients.

The goal here is to get everything done well in time, without straining our developers and compromising the quality of the output (though for some developers, the quality is more closely tied to the quality and availability of coffee).

Efficient workload assignment (taking into consideration both the team and the process they need to tackle) also helps us plan our cycle rates and control our timelines.

Three of the most important things we consider for controlling and minimizing our cycle time are:

Gated Production Process: Stage-gate process or a phase-gate process might seem a bit dated for a team that believes in cutting-edge tech and methodologies, but it’s the perfect technique in certain cases. By moving the project deftly through each decision gate, we are able to keep a project as a whole or an element of it on the right track instead of straying into far-off branches.

CI/CD Pipelines: Automation is the future, and we’ve embraced the future. CI/CD pipelines don't just allow us to offer superior results; they also allow us to cut our delivery and deployment timelines to a fraction. For individual tickets and routine tasks, the CI/CD pipeline helps us minimize our cycle time.

Jira: The Jira (taken from Gojira, the Japanese word for Godzilla) is an issue tracking software and makes our job of assigning and tracking the progress of individual tickets a breeze. Developers can see which tickets are assigned to them and in what order, and it makes the whole process neat and time-efficient.

Having just the right people and the right tools isn’t enough. You also need the right processes, methods, and techniques to improve the development timeline and quality.

That’s how we keep our cycle rates low and our clients happy (while keeping our developers “functional”).

Final Words

Do you know the cycle rate of your developers (whether in-house or outsourced)? If not, that’s something you will probably want to look into. The answer might not be to your liking, but at least you will have a quantifiable notion of their speed and efficiency. Agile software development and DevOps are about more than just technical proficiency; they are about better project management and client satisfaction. You might not know or care about your development house’s cycle rates, but your suppliers would.

So if you haven’t given it much thought before, it is high time you did. Abysmal cycle rates may be stifling your growth, and you might not even know it. Knowing where you are weak is the first step towards becoming stronger.

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