Agile

Velocity Scrum

What is Velocity Scrum?
Definition of Velocity Scrum
In Scrum, velocity is a measure of the average amount of work a team completes during a sprint, typically expressed in terms of story points or other units of work. It is calculated by adding up the total number of story points or work units completed in recent sprints and dividing by the number of sprints. Velocity helps teams predict how much work they can realistically commit to in future sprints, aiding in sprint planning and forecasting, and providing insights into the team's productivity and capacity over time.

In the world of product management and operations, Velocity is a critical concept that helps teams manage their work efficiently and effectively. It is a metric used in Scrum, an agile project management framework, to predict how much work a team can complete in a given time frame. Understanding Velocity is crucial for product managers and operational teams to plan, prioritize, and execute their tasks.

Velocity is a measure of the amount of work a Scrum team can tackle during a single Sprint (a set period of time during which specific work has to be completed and made ready for review). It is calculated by summing up the estimates of the items (usually user stories) successfully delivered in the last sprint. This glossary entry will delve into the intricacies of Velocity, its calculation, benefits, and how it impacts product management and operations.

Overview of Velocity

Velocity is a key performance indicator in the Scrum framework that helps teams estimate the amount of work they can handle in future Sprints based on their performance in previous Sprints. It is usually measured in story points, a unit of measure for expressing an estimate of the overall effort required to fully implement a product backlog item or any other piece of work.

When a Scrum team starts to work on a project, the velocity is unknown and needs to be calculated. The team estimates the effort required for each user story in the product backlog. After the Sprint, the total effort of the delivered (and accepted) stories is summed up and this sum becomes the first velocity of the team. In subsequent Sprints, the team's velocity becomes the average of the velocities of the previous Sprints.

Story Points and Velocity

Story points are a unit of measure used by Scrum teams to estimate the effort required to implement a story. In Scrum, a story is a small, manageable piece of work. Story points take into account the amount of work to do, the complexity of the work, and any risk or uncertainty in the work. When a team estimates with story points, they can gain a better understanding of their own capacity and velocity.

Velocity is then calculated by adding all the story points of the completed user stories in a Sprint. It's important to note that only user stories that are 'Done' should be included in the velocity calculation. If a user story is not fully completed, it should not be included in the velocity calculation.

Velocity Chart

A velocity chart is a visual representation of the team's ability to deliver effort over time. It shows the total effort that a team has managed to deliver in each sprint. The X-axis represents the Sprints, and the Y-axis represents the effort (usually in story points) delivered. The velocity chart is a useful tool for forecasting how much effort a team can handle in future Sprints.

The velocity chart can also help identify patterns and trends. For example, if the team's velocity is steadily increasing, it suggests that the team is becoming more efficient. On the other hand, if the team's velocity is decreasing, it might indicate that the team is facing challenges that are preventing them from delivering their work.

Benefits of Using Velocity in Scrum

Using velocity in Scrum offers several benefits. It provides a simple, easy-to-understand metric that teams can use to plan their work. By knowing their velocity, teams can better predict how much work they can realistically achieve in future Sprints, helping them to manage expectations and avoid overcommitting.

Velocity also promotes transparency and improves communication. By making velocity visible to all team members, everyone has a clear understanding of the team's capacity. This can foster a sense of shared responsibility and accountability. Furthermore, by tracking velocity over time, teams can identify trends and make necessary adjustments to their process to improve their performance.

Improved Planning and Forecasting

One of the main benefits of using velocity in Scrum is that it improves planning and forecasting. By knowing their velocity, teams can estimate how many Sprints it will take to complete a project or a specific set of user stories. This can help product owners and stakeholders make informed decisions about prioritization and scheduling.

For example, if a team's velocity is 20 story points per Sprint, and the product backlog contains 100 story points of work, it can be estimated that it will take the team about five Sprints to complete the work. This is a simplification, as velocity can vary from Sprint to Sprint, but it provides a useful starting point for planning and forecasting.

Increased Transparency

Velocity also increases transparency within the team and with stakeholders. By tracking and communicating velocity, everyone involved in the project has a clear understanding of the team's capacity and how much work they can realistically achieve in a Sprint. This can help manage expectations and ensure that everyone is on the same page.

Furthermore, by making velocity visible, it can foster a sense of shared responsibility and accountability among team members. Everyone can see how their work contributes to the team's overall velocity and success of the project.

How to Use Velocity in Scrum

Using velocity in Scrum involves several steps. First, the team needs to estimate the effort required for each user story in the product backlog. This is usually done in a meeting called the Backlog Grooming or Refinement meeting, where the team discusses each story and assigns it a story point value.

Once the Sprint starts, the team works on the user stories and at the end of the Sprint, the total effort of the completed stories is summed up. This sum becomes the team's velocity for that Sprint. Over several Sprints, the team's velocity will start to stabilize and can be used for future planning and forecasting.

Estimating Story Points

The first step in using velocity in Scrum is estimating the effort required for each user story. This is usually done using story points, a unit of measure that takes into account the amount of work to do, the complexity of the work, and any risk or uncertainty in the work. The team discusses each story and assigns it a story point value.

There are several techniques for estimating story points, including Planning Poker, T-Shirt Sizes, and the Fibonacci sequence. The key is to find a method that works for the team and to be consistent in its application. It's also important to remember that story point estimates are not exact measurements, but rather relative values that help the team compare the effort required for different stories.

Calculating Velocity

Once the team has estimated the story points for the user stories in the Sprint, they can start working on them. At the end of the Sprint, the team adds up the story points for all the completed stories. This sum is the team's velocity for that Sprint.

It's important to note that only stories that are fully completed should be included in the velocity calculation. If a story is not fully completed, it should not be included in the velocity. This is to ensure that the velocity accurately reflects the team's capacity to deliver completed work.

Common Misunderstandings about Velocity

While velocity is a useful tool in Scrum, it's also often misunderstood. One common misunderstanding is that a higher velocity is always better. While it's true that a higher velocity means the team is delivering more work, it doesn't necessarily mean the team is working more efficiently or delivering higher quality work. Velocity is a capacity planning tool, not a performance metric.

Another common misunderstanding is that velocity should be used to compare teams. Each team is unique, with its own set of challenges and capabilities. Comparing the velocity of different teams is like comparing apples to oranges and can lead to unhealthy competition and unrealistic expectations.

Velocity is not a Performance Metric

One of the most common misunderstandings about velocity is that it's a performance metric. While it's true that velocity measures the amount of work a team delivers in a Sprint, it doesn't measure the quality of that work or how efficiently the team is working. A team could have a high velocity by rushing through work and delivering poor quality, or by overworking themselves.

Instead of using velocity as a performance metric, it should be used as a capacity planning tool. It helps teams understand their capacity and plan their work accordingly. It's a measure of the team's ability to deliver work, not a measure of their worth or performance.

Velocity Should Not Be Used to Compare Teams

Another common misunderstanding is that velocity should be used to compare teams. Each team is unique, with its own set of challenges and capabilities. A team's velocity is influenced by many factors, including the complexity of the work, the team's experience, and the team's working environment.

Comparing the velocity of different teams is like comparing apples to oranges. It can lead to unhealthy competition and unrealistic expectations. Instead of comparing velocities, each team should focus on understanding their own velocity and using it to plan and improve their own work.

Conclusion

Velocity is a powerful tool in the Scrum framework that helps teams plan their work and forecast their capacity. By understanding their velocity, teams can make more informed decisions, manage expectations, and improve their process. However, it's important to remember that velocity is a tool, not a performance metric or a measure of a team's worth.

By using velocity correctly, teams can improve their planning, increase transparency, and ultimately deliver more value to their customers. Whether you're a product manager, a Scrum Master, or a team member, understanding and using velocity can help you work more effectively and efficiently in your Scrum team.