The ability of Agile project management to increase flexibility, productivity, and high-quality deliverables is proven across industries, not just in software development. Agile is often used in a Scrum framework, and one important metric used to measure the ongoing efficiency and quality of a project is velocity. This article will explain what velocity is in Agile and show how to use it to predict project completion.
What is velocity in Agile?
Agile velocity is a useful tool for teams to use internally, not necessarily to use for external determinations. The team can use it to track estimates and completions over several sprints — giving them an accurate understanding of how fast they can move through a backlog. It helps a team look at their progress and strengths and learn how to improve their metrics.
To calculate the velocity of a sprint, we need to know:
● How many user stories the team has to complete
● The number of points that a user story is worth Benefits of velocity in Agile.
Given two identical sets of tasks, two different teams may still record different Agile velocity, as their own ways of working will differ greatly. That’s why the main benefit of velocity in Agile is to help project managers determine how much work (i.e., how many user stories) they can complete in a sprint.
Although Agile velocity shouldn’t be used to measure a team’s efficiency, and therefore become the yardstick for the next milestone delivery, it can be used as an accurate indicator of a unique team’s progress. A team can then tweak its processes and calculate their velocity change, to see if changes were for the better or worse.
There is no ideal velocity number. By following the processes outlined above, a project manager can use velocity in Agile to determine the number of sprints that will be needed for the project and how much time each sprint needs.
What is velocity in scrum?
In Scrum and other Agile Project Management frameworks, velocity serves as an Agile metric for estimating the work a Scrum team can complete within a given time frame—typically a single sprint.
We can express velocity in story points, a unit of measure for sizing user stories or tasks in terms of complexity, risk, and uncertainty. Story points provide a more nuanced way to estimate work than time-based metrics, such as hours or days.
Many factors influence the number of story points each team member can complete during a two-week sprint, such as the individual's experience, the complexity of the tasks, and the team's working dynamics. New scrum teams typically average 5–10 story points per person for each two-week sprint.
Velocity helps to forecast the continuous improvement a team can accomplish in future sprints, which assists with planning and setting realistic goals. This metric helps teams develop a stable work rhythm, predict project timelines, and manage stakeholder expectations.
Factors that can affect scrum velocity:
Various factors can influence scrum metrics and velocity. Understanding these can help in planning and continuously improving the team's performance.
Team size and skill level :
The number of individuals on a team and their respective skill levels can influence the work the team can complete during a sprint. A larger team might be able to complete more story points in a sprint. However, more people can lead to high communication overhead and coordination challenges.
Conversely, a small, highly skilled team could outperform a large, less skilled team by efficiently handling complex tasks.
Team stability and experience :
When Scrum team members work together for multiple sprints, they'll likely iron out many of the kinks that hinder new teams. They'll have established communication patterns and know who is good at what.
These teams have shared experiences to draw on when problems arise. This familiarity can significantly improve velocity.
Complexity of user stories:
A sprint filled with complex stories will usually result in a low velocity. The velocity figure will be misleading if the complexity doesn't accurately reflect the assigned story points.
To maintain a consistent velocity, some teams aim for a balance of "quick win" tasks and more complex tasks within a sprint.
External dependencies and constraints
If your team relies on another team to complete database updates or API integrations and that team runs late, it can directly lower your team's velocity. Being aware of these dependencies and planning for them through effective inter-team communication can mitigate negative impacts on velocity.
Likewise, factor public holidays or mandatory company events into sprint planning, as they reduce the available working time.
Once we understand team's velocity, it becomes a powerful tool for several aspects of sprint planning and project management, including:
Estimating future sprints
Knowing team's average velocity helps eliminate guesswork. If your team has an average velocity of 50 story points for its past three sprints, you have a data-backed baseline for planning its next sprint. If your next sprint backlog has roughly 50 story points, you're making a reasonable commitment.
Forecasting project timelines
Stakeholders rely more on data-driven estimates than guesses or wishful thinking. For instance, if project backlog has 200 story points and the team's average velocity is 50 story points per sprint then team will likely need around four more sprints to complete the project.
Identifying overcommitment and under commitment
A team's velocity suddenly dropping to 30 story points or skyrocketing to 70 is a red flag. A consistent drop might mean the team feels overwhelmed, and a rise could mean under-challenged team members. This knowledge allows you to make real-time adjustments, such as reassigning tasks or reconsidering sprint goals.
Tracking improvement and iterative progress :
Tracking velocity over time helps you understand whether your team is becoming more efficient or ongoing issues need attention. If your velocity climbs from 40 to 60 over several sprints, it's a sign your process improvements are yielding results.
Is velocity in Scrum the same as productivity?
No, Velocity is a metric primarily for planning and estimating how much work a team can handle in future sprints.
Productivity is usually a broader measure that can include factors such as the quality of work, efficiency of processes, and value to the business.
Velocity is team-specific—it's not a measure for comparing the performance of different teams. Each group within a team may work differently, resulting in varying velocities. A lower overall velocity does not automatically mean that one team is less successful than another.