Throughput (TP)

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Output rate, Productivity, Efficiency


Understanding Throughput

Throughput is a term borrowed from operations management and applied within the Agile and business context. It refers to the number of units that a system can process over a given period of time. The ‘system’ could be anything from a manufacturing line to a software development team.

Importance of Throughput

Throughput is a critical measure of efficiency. Higher throughput implies that a system is productive and effective at turning inputs into outputs. In Agile teams, throughput can be used to measure the team’s velocity or the speed at which work items are completed.

Advanced Aspects of Throughput

Throughput is often analyzed alongside other metrics like cycle time and work in progress (WIP). Together, these metrics provide a comprehensive view of a team’s productivity and efficiency. Throughput can be influenced by a variety of factors, including team size, skill level, work complexity, and system constraints. Therefore, improving throughput often involves optimizing these factors.

Usage Examples

1. A software development team tracks their throughput to measure how many user stories they complete each sprint. This helps them predict future performance and plan their work accordingly.
2. A manufacturing company uses throughput to measure the effectiveness of their production line. They implement changes to increase throughput, such as introducing new machinery or optimizing workflows.
3. An e-commerce website tracks throughput to measure the number of orders processed per hour. This helps them manage server capacity and ensure a smooth customer experience.

Historical Context

Throughput originated from operations management, particularly in the context of manufacturing. It was later adopted by the software and Agile communities as a measure of team productivity.


  • Throughput is the same as productivity – While they are related, throughput is a measure of output over time, while productivity considers the resources used.
  • Higher throughput always means better performance – Not necessarily. High throughput with poor quality is not desirable. Balance is key.


  • Throughput vs Velocity: While both measure output, velocity is specific to Agile and measures the amount of work a team can handle during a sprint.
  • Throughput vs Productivity: Productivity considers the resources used, while throughput focuses solely on output.

Related Concepts

  • Cycle Time
  • Work In Progress (WIP)
  • Lead Time
  • Velocity
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