Velocity. The Revolutionary Way to Measure in Scrum (2024)

Almost everybody has heard of Scrum and no sooner do we learn of its existence, we hear about 'velocity'. But what is it and what part does it play in Scrum? Let's take a look.

Velocity. The Revolutionary Way to Measure in Scrum (1)

Definition of Velocity

Let's start with a definition of velocity within the context of Scrum. I've deliberately broken this down into small phrases as each phrase deserves an explanation:

Velocity is:

The Amount of work
A Scrum Team
Gets Done
Within a Sprint


Please note that this is a 'Derek Definition' and not an official Scrum definition.

Breaking it down

The first phrase: 'Amount of work' is deliberately neutral on the subject of how you measure. You can use hours, work items, features, story points, t-shirt sizes or any other form of consistent measurement that is useful to you. Don't worry if you've never heard of some of these measurement types before. All that matters is that you have a consistent way of measuring the work.

The second phrase, 'A Scrum Team' indicates that this definition applies specifically to Scrum. It could equally apply to an agile team though, as long as the composition of the team is consistent.

'Gets done' comes next. This means work that is completed in conformance with the definition of done.

Finally, we have the phrase 'Within a Sprint' to indicate the time boundary within which we measure.

Every Sprint Can Have a Different Velocity. Which Do You Use?

It is common for Velocity to fluctuate over Sprints. When that happens, there are a number of approaches you can use:

  • Take the last number and use that. It's the most recent data point you have and therefore, the most accurate
  • Take the average over all Sprints. It smoothes out the peaks and troughs and gives us an average we can work with
  • Take the average of the last three Sprints
  • Take the average of the best three Sprints
  • Take the average of the three worst Sprints

Each of the above approaches are valid. Use your knowledge of context to decide which works best for you.

When is Velocity Useful?

Velocity can be useful in the following circ*mstances:

  • As a guide when forecasting how much work can be be done within a Sprint
  • Creating burn-down and burn-up charts
  • Creating forecasts for Release and Product delivery dates

When is Velocity Not Useful?

Velocity is not useful under the following circ*mstances:

  • Comparing performance of different Scrum Teams
  • Assessing the performance of the Scrum Team to which it relates
  • When used as a target rather than a measure

The Benefits

The Scrum Guide does not mention Velocity. Instead, it refers to the need for forecasting, planning and sizing. So, where does Velocity fit in and what are the benefits?

  • It's a common technique that is useful for forecasting, planning and sizing. Many Scrum Teams use it and it's a good technique to understand
  • The creation of forecasts, charts and reports is easier. If only because the mathematics is simpler.
  • Forecasts are usually more accurate

Examples of Use

Example 1 : Sprint Planning

A typical format for Sprint Planning might look like this: The Product Owner brings an ordered Product Backlog to Sprint Planning. They take the first item and ask the Developers "Can you do this"? The Developers assess the size of the item against the Velocity. As long as the sum of sizes for all item estimates is less than the Velocity, the Developers accept the work.

Example 2 : Forecasting a Delivery Date

The Product Owner sums the size of all Product Backlog Items that remain in the Product Backlog. They divide the sum by the Velocity and round up the result to the nearest integer. This tells us how many Sprints are needed to get the Product done.

Taking a worked example: The size of the items in the Product Backlog sums up to 210 points. The average velocity of the team is 21 points. We divide 210 by 21 and get the result 10. It will take 10 Sprints to deliver the product. If we work in two-week Sprints, that's 20 weeks.

Summary

It was the search for a new way to estimate software projects that brought me to Scrum. When I discovered Velocity, it set about a revolution in the way I made forecasts and plans. It was fast, effective, and more accurate that the way I used to estimate.

Velocity is a useful measure. Because it is based on actual work 'done', it is beneficial for creating forecasts. It is common for Velocity to fluctuate between Sprints and equally common to work with an average when creating forecasts.

Velocity is an excellent measure and a terrible target. Once a measure becomes a target (ie: for performance measurement), it loses the ability to provide meaningful, trustworthy, transparent data. This is because the number gets gamed. Avoid this at all costs. Because the best Velocity is an honest one.

Velocity. The Revolutionary Way to Measure in Scrum (2024)

FAQs

Velocity. The Revolutionary Way to Measure in Scrum? ›

The velocity of a team is the measure of how much work they can accomplish in a given amount of time. In fact, scrum velocity is calculated by adding up the points that were accomplished in each iteration and dividing it by the number of iterations done since the product backlog was last updated.

What is the velocity measurement in Scrum? ›

Velocity is a measure of the amount of work a Team can tackle during a single Sprint and is the key metric in Scrum. Velocity is calculated at the end of the Sprint by totaling the Points for all fully completed User Stories.

What is the velocity measure in Agile? ›

Velocity in Agile is a simple calculation measuring units of work completed in a given timeframe. Units of work can be measured in several ways, including engineer hours, user stories, or story points. The same applies to timeframe; it's typically measured in iterations, sprints, or weeks.

Why is it important to measure velocity? ›

Being able to look at and measure sprint velocity at a glance can help those working on an Agile project quickly understand how their team is performing. At any time during the sprint, they can glance at a chart and see the team's current progress.

Is velocity a good metric to track the progress of product development in Scrum team? ›

Benefits of measuring velocity in Scrum

The metric helps visualize the progress in team performance. It's not a goal in and of itself. If the Developers are able to deliver more story points throughout Sprints, it means that the improvements discussed during the Retrospective are effective.

Why is velocity important in Scrum? ›

Understanding the team's velocity can help with continuous improvement, allowing teams to forecast for future sprints as well as planning and setting realistic goals. This metric helps teams develop a stable work rhythm, predict project timelines, and manage stakeholder expectations.

How to improve velocity in Scrum? ›

To increase velocity, try the following:
  1. Use cross-training and ensure knowledge transfer is consistent.
  2. Avoid context switching. ...
  3. Be aware of resource management and maintaining a constant development team.
  4. Use a rolling average of the last 3-4 sprints to plan the next sprint.

What is true about velocity in Scrum in Agile? ›

Velocity is a key Scrum metric that measures the amount of work a team can deliver during a sprint. Before explaining how velocity is calculated, let's discuss how the metric is used. During Sprint planning, a team's velocity is used to determine the number of product backlog items to tackle.

How is velocity calculated in a sprint? ›

Simply add up the total of story points completed from each sprint, then divide by the number of sprints. So, your average sprint velocity is 96 ÷ 3 = 32.

What is the actual velocity in Agile? ›

Therefore, agile velocity represents the work completed in a given sprint. However, quantifying the amount of work completed can be challenging, particularly in knowledge-based industries. Agile teams use story point estimation to gauge the size of work items, also known as stories.

What is the difference between velocity and capacity in Scrum? ›

Scrum velocity is the rate at which a team can complete work in a sprint, while Scrum capacity is the maximum amount of work a team can achieve. To get the most out of your Scrum implementation, you need to understand the difference between these two metrics and the target capacity to achieve the desired velocity.

What is the velocity chart in Agile? ›

The velocity chart displays the average amount of work a scrum team completes during a sprint. Teams can use velocity to predict how quickly they can work through the backlog because the report tracks the forecasted and completed work over several sprints. The more sprints, the more accurate the forecast.

Why is velocity important? ›

Why Velocity Matters. Velocity measures motion starting in one place and heading toward another place. The practical applications of velocity are endless, but one of the most common reasons to measure velocity is to determine how quickly you (or anything in motion) will arrive at a destination from a given location.

How is velocity measured in Agile? ›

Velocity makes it easy for agile teams to estimate how much work they can achieve per sprint and how long it'll take to get a project to a certain level of growth. Agile velocity is measured in either days, ideal days, or the number of hours it takes the team to deliver a number of backlog items, story points, etc.

Is velocity a Scrum or Kanban? ›

Scrum metrics: Velocity

Another prominent metric for the scrum master. Putting it in clear and crispy words, Velocity is the average amount of work the scrum team completed during a sprint, usually measured in story points. Velocity determines how much a team can deliver and in how much duration.

Does Scrum Master calculate the velocity? ›

Calculating the Scrum velocity of a development team is actually very easy. Everything you need to do as a Scrum Master is to: Add the points of all user stories delivered by the development team at the end of the sprint!

What does velocity measure? ›

Velocity is defined as a vector measurement of the rate and direction of motion. Put simply, velocity is the speed at which something moves in one direction. The speed of a car traveling north on a major freeway and the speed a rocket launching into space can both be measured using velocity.

What is velocity in Scrum artifacts? ›

Velocity in Scrum is a critical metric that helps teams estimate the amount of work they can complete in a given time frame, typically a sprint. It is calculated by adding up the estimates of the work (usually in story points) completed in the last sprint. This provides a useful benchmark for planning future sprints.

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