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Scrum Velocity: Definition & Calculation

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  • 0:07 Definition of Velocity
  • 1:49 Calculation of Velocity
  • 2:48 Using Velocity
  • 5:03 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Stephen Meyer

Stephen has worked as a Project Manager and is PMP certified, as well as certified by the Scrum Alliance.

The main questions for a project are when and how efficiently it will be completed. In most project methodologies, there are numerous calculations and measurements to answer these questions. In Scrum, only velocity is needed to provide the answers.

Definition of Velocity

Randall's project team has recently started using Scrum, the most common form of Agile project methodology. As his team has become more familiar with Scrum, Randall introduces them to an important metric, known as velocity. The team is wary of metrics, because, in their experience, they are mainly used to increase demand and shorten deadlines under the claim of efficiency. Randall knows that his team can benefit from this metric if they understand how it's used. Before he can teach them this, he needs to define velocity for them.

Velocity is the measure of work completed by the development team within each sprint, which a repeated cycle typically spanning two to four weeks. The key in the definition of velocity is that it is the work completed by the development team. In Scrum, project work is broken down into user stories, which focus on specific functionality for an end user. The development team estimates the time and effort needed to develop and test each user story with points, or a numeric value. The work completed is the summation of these assigned points for user stories that have been fully developed and tested.

The other aspect to the definition of velocity is that the work is completed within a sprint. Sprints are used instead of weeks or days because it's within the sprint that the team commits to complete the user stories. When a team first begins Agile, they set the length of their sprints. While they can be as short as one week or as long as four weeks, it's important that the length stays consistent. Varying sprint lengths results in a varying amount of work completed. This would imply that the team's efficiency changes, but that might not actually be the case.

Calculation of Velocity

Once Randall has defined velocity for his team, he moves on to the calculation. There are two different versions of velocity that can be calculated, but the calculation is similar for each. The first version is actual velocity and involves dividing the total number of story points completed by the number of sprints. For example, if the development team has completed a total of 70 points over two sprints, the team's actual velocity would be 35 points per sprint. This is the more common version and the typical calculation for velocity.

The second version of velocity is expected velocity, which involves dividing the total number of estimated story points by the number of sprints. For example, if the development team estimates a total of 160 points over four sprints, the team's expected velocity would be 40 points per sprint. This version is less common and is mainly used in comparison with actual velocity to determine if the team is regularly meeting its commitments.

Using Velocity

After the team understands what velocity is and how it's calculated, Randall is able to discuss with them how it can be used. He's hopeful that they will see the benefit of this metric. Velocity can be used within the development team, as well as outside of it, and each use of velocity provides a specific benefit for the development team. Velocity can be used for estimating, comparing, and measuring efficiency and growth.

Using velocity to make estimates works on two levels. The first is determining how much work a team can take on in the sprint. Although this is fairly straightforward, it is impactful to the team. If a team averages 30 points per sprint, the team should look to take on as close to 30 points as possible in any given sprint. This protects the team from mandates to take on more work in a sprint than they can complete. If additional work must be completed in the same time frame, measures should be taken to increase the team's capacity, such as adding developers and testers, or approving overtime pay for additional hours worked.

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