What is velocity – and what is it really used to measure?
Is velocity the first indicator to look at when judging the productivity of a development team? How is the velocity of a team calculated?
To begin with, let’s have a little reminder of what velocity actually is.
Definition of velocity within the Scrum method
Velocity is determined by taking the sum of the effort points of the finalized tickets or “items” (which are classified as “completed”) at the end of a sprint.
Each item receives an estimate at the start of the sprint. Take for example 4 items with the following estimates:
- The user authenticates at the back office: 0.5
- The user registers for the training program: 4
- The user pays for their training via Stripe: 3
- The user cancels their subscription: 2
If we add up these effort points: 0.5 + 4 + 3 +2, the velocity of the development team at the end of the sprint will be 8.5.
A point of caution: avoid calculating velocity by considering the tickets that are “finished” (work in progress) or “done”.
If items are still in the “in progress” or “to do” columns, they are not factored into the calculation of the team velocity.
If that were to happen, you can imagine that at the start of the sprint the team of developers may have announced a velocity of 10. However, according to our example, at the end of the sprint, the team would have actually had a velocity of 8.5. That’s because 8.5 corresponds to the work that the team was able to actually complete during the sprint.
What is velocity used for?
Velocity = productivity indicator? No
There is a common misconception that the higher a team’s velocity, the better and more productive it is. This is simply not true, and doesn’t really make sense either.
Similarly, using velocities as an important KPI (performance indicator) for development teams is also flawed.
This is because the velocity of a team is not set in stone; it evolves over time. Indeed, the velocity of a team can also decrease over time because the team:
- has acquired experience,
- has better knowledge of the history of the project,
- members know each other better,
Another point to be noted is that when a team member leaves or a new member joins, the velocity of the team will naturally change. And that does not mean that there has been a corresponding increase or decrease in team productivity.
Velocity = predictability indicator? Yes
All above considered, what is velocity used for? Velocity is used to make predictions.
It is a point of reference for what the team is capable of producing in a sprint. The Product Owner can take the average velocities of the last 3 development sprints and use that data to formulate an average velocity to be used to predict and make forecasts on the duration and effort required to develop a new web tool.
At Bocasay, we carry out your web, mobile and software projects using the Scrum method. Contact us for more information.