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What is Velocity

Intermediate

difficulty

Stage 2

Agile IQ® Level

Capacity

Metrics

Definition

Velocity is defined as the average amount of the Product Backlog a team can turn into an Increment of Done. In essence, it is a measure of capacity to create something that is potentially releasable in a single Sprint.

Purpose

The Definition of Done serves a number of purposes:

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Product Owner

An understanding of capacity per Sprint. This helps with forecasting when work can be completed, timeframes, and developing roadmaps.

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Team Members

An estimate of how much of the Product Backlog to take on in any one Sprint

How to use it

Number of items per Sprint

Some teams count the number of items they can deliver to Done in a single Sprint.

Story Points per Sprint

Many teams use the Planning Poker technique (an adaption of Wideband Delphi) with a modified Fibonacci scale or “t-shirt sizes” to assess the size of work.

Add up all of the story points for items that have achieved the Definition of Done by the end of the Sprint. This is their velocity for that Sprint.

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Velocity isn't Effort Points

Only when a Product Backlog item meets the Definition of Done are its story points added to the Sprint's velocity.
- Professional Scrum Master (PSM I) International course curriculum.

Velocity is variable

Due simply to natural variability, velocity will vary from Sprint to Sprint. A great Scrum Master will help the team record and identify:

  • The average velocity.
  • The lowest recent velocity.
  • The highest recent velocity.

This helps everyone understand what can potentially be Done in any given Sprint given clear and transparent history of what the team has turned into an Increment of Done, not on what the Product Owner demands based on deadlines.

velocity trends for agile iq product

What makes velocity different Sprint to Sprint?

Velocity tends go down when

  • There’s a change in team members.
  • The numbers of team members exceeds 10.
  • There’s wew work for the team and they have no significant experience with it as a team.
  • One project winds down and a new project is added to the Product Backlog.
  • An increase in solution complexity.
  • There’s lots of context switching.
  • The number of items in-progress increases.
  • The batch size of work in-progress increases.
  • Public holidays.
  • Personal leave of team members.
  • Natural variability.
velocity trends team voltron
Above: A team's velocity changes over time

Velocity tends to go up when

  • The numbers of team members decreases (but remains above 5).
  • The team become highly skilled at doing the same work.
  • The team’s experience with certain types of work increases.
  • The team invest in learning new skills (appropriate to the development of their product or service).
  • Retrospectives create actions that increase productivity.
  • Retrospectives create actions that decrease waste.
  • Retrospectives create actions that decrease rework.
  • The amount of work in-progress decreases.
  • The batch size of work in-progress decreases.
  • The team’s agile behaviours strengthen.
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What if an item doesn't meet Done by the end of the Sprint?

Return the item to the Product Backlog. Estimate the remainder of the work that is needed to get the item to Done. When the item meets the Definition of Done, that remainder is added to the velocity for that Sprint.
- Professional Scrum Master (PSM I) International course curriculum.

References

1. Sutherland, J. and Schwaber, K. (2020) The Scrum Guide. The Definitive Guide to Scrum: The Rules of the Game.

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