Cycle time formula in software delivery

It’s been a bit busy but I’m back with a requested article. How to calculate cycle time via a formula. This will be a quick article as calculating cycle time is really quick. For more in depth information, make sure you check out my article on DORA metrics and WIP limits. With that said, let’s define cycle time and go from there.

What is cycle time?

Cycle time in software delivery is a key metric used to measure the efficiency and effectiveness of a development process. It’s the amount of time from when work begins on a piece of software or a software feature until that software or feature is delivered. This includes not only coding time but also includes code review, user acceptance, integration/deploying and until it’s done.

In other words, cycle time is the total time it takes for a task to move from ‘started’ to ‘finished’ status in the development pipeline. It starts when the actual work begins and ends when the work is ready for delivery.

What are the benefits of cycle time?

Some of the benefits of reducing cycle time are

  1. Faster Delivery: A reduced cycle time means that new features, enhancements, or bug fixes can be delivered to users more quickly. This can provide a competitive advantage in today’s fast-paced software industry.
  2. Better Responsiveness: Shorter cycle times make the software development process more adaptable and responsive to changes. If a new user requirement or market trend emerges, teams with shorter cycle times can adapt their products more quickly. No one wants to work on stuff from 2 years ago when it’s no longer needed!
  3. Improved Efficiency: Reducing cycle time often involves streamlining the development process, removing bottlenecks, and improving efficiency. This can lead to better use of resources and cost savings.
  4. Increased Customer Satisfaction: Customers often appreciate quick and regular updates to their software. By reducing cycle time, you can increase customer satisfaction and retention. Shorter cycle times mean faster feedback from users, as new features or changes reach them more quickly. This feedback can then be used to further improve the product.
  5. Reduced Risk: Delivering more frequently (a consequence of reduced cycle times) in smaller increments can reduce the risk associated with large, infrequent releases. Issues can be detected and fixed sooner, which minimizes their impact.
  6. Better Quality: When focusing on reducing cycle times, teams tend to put a spotlight on their development process. This can lead to an improvement in work quality, as inefficiencies and error-prone practices are addressed.

What is the formula for cycle time?

The formula for cycle time is really easy. End date of ticketStart date. For example, I finish my ticket on on July 5 but started it on July 1st. I subtract July 5 – July 1 and therefore my cycle time is 4 days. Simple right?!

How would I calculate cycle time manually?

Calculating cycle time manually involves a few steps. Here is a simple method:

  1. Identify the Start and End Points: This is crucial because your cycle time is dependent on the beginning and end of a work item or a process. In software development, the start time is often when the actual development work begins, and the end time is when the feature or task is ready for delivery.
  2. Calculate the Cycle Time for Each Task: For each task, calculate the cycle time as the difference between the end time and start time. Note that this is usually measured in working days and should not include weekends or holidays, unless your team works on those days. Also, remember to subtract any time when work was paused for some reason.Cycle Time = End Time – Start Time
  3. Calculate the Average Cycle Time: If you’re interested in the average cycle time for a batch of tasks or over a period of time, you can add up all the individual cycle times and then divide by the number of tasks. Average Cycle Time = (Sum of individual Cycle Times) / n

Here’s a more concrete example. Let’s say you have three tasks, and you’ve recorded the following start and end dates for each:

  • Task 1: Start on July 1, end on July 5.
  • Task 2: Start on July 1, end on July 10.
  • Task 3: Start on July 1, end on July 12.

First, calculate the cycle time for each task:

Task 1 cycle time = 5 – 1 = 4 days.

Task 2 cycle time = 10 – 1 = 9 days.

Task 3 cycle time = 12 – 1 = 11 days.

Then, to calculate the average cycle time:

Average Cycle Time = (4 days + 9 days + 11 days) / 3 = 8 days.

So, the average cycle time is approximately 8 days.

Keep in mind, this is a very simple example. In practice, you may have to adjust your calculations to account for non-working days, pauses in work, and other factors. Making sure you understand statistical outliers and forecasting and how to improve are key components.


There you have it, how to calculate cycle time. If you need someone who has done this manually, semi automated and fully automated I’m your person! In addition, I’ve implemented DORA metrics and more at various organizations. DORA metrics are not the end all be all but can tell you directionally how your organization is doing. Context is super key and don’t get lost in the process. Make sure you contact me if you have any questions or need help.

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