Change lead time measures the full lifecycle of a pull request from the first commit to deployment.
Change lead time is one of the DORA metrics and a key deployment insight found in Swarmia. It measures the time it takes for pull requests to go from the first commit to deployment and helps you identify wait times and bottlenecks in your development process.
Pull request cycle time, on the other hand, excludes the last part of the lifecycle, time to deploy, and includes only the time from the first commit to pull request merge.
Despite being related, it makes the most sense to look at pull request cycle time and deployment metrics like change lead time separately. Slow time to deploy might mask the improvements you're making in the rest of your development process.
Using two separate metrics also ensures that missing lifecycle data doesn't skew the metrics. Pull request cycle time can be calculated for all pull requests, whereas change lead time is only calculated for pull requests that belong to applications that have deployments configured in Swarmia.
If you have 3 deployments that took that took 2 days, 3 days and 1.5 days from the first commit to deployment, your change lead time would be 2.15 days.
Why it matters
Change lead time is an indicator of how quickly you can ship new things to production. High change lead time can indicate too large batch sizes, slow code review/QA, or long CI/CD wait times.
According to Accelerate, elite teams can go from a code committed to production in less than an hour, while for high-performing teams it takes between one day and one week.
How to use it
Measure change lead time in combination with other deployment and DORA metrics to ensure a healthy balance of speed vs stability in your delivery.
Where to find it
You can find change lead time (as well as the other DORA metrics) under Insights → Code → Deployments.