The Scrum methodology of agile software development marks a dramatic departure from waterfall management. In fact, Scrum and other agile processes were inspired by its shortcomings. The Scrum methodology emphasizes communication and collaboration, functioning software, and the flexibility to adapt to emerging business realities — all attributes that suffer in the rigidly ordered waterfall paradigm.
Scrum teams know that velocity is a rough estimate for the amount of work that a team can accomplish in a given sprint. It is calculated by simply adding up all the completed story points. Since the point values are merely estimates of the perceived difficulty and time necessary to complete the backlog item, a team’s velocity is not especially useful in and of itself. Instead, it becomes a valuable metric over time as teams complete multiple sprints and have the opportunity to establish a consistent velocity. Once this occurs, the Product Owner can look to the team’s established velocity to determine how much work it can tackle in the next sprint.
Amr Elssamadisy has just posted on the topic of velocity and concludes his post with the following questions: “Should velocity be used a metric for productivity? Should it be used for iteration planning? What about longer term release planning? Should it be used at all, or is it a wasteful practice?”
As always, I’m curious to hear how you’d answer those questions, so please share your thoughts in the comments section.
As you might guess, I’m of the mind that tracking velocity is a valuable process. However, the limits of its value must be understood, since it is derived from estimates (i.e. abstracted valuations) and not an absolute indication of progress or productivity. Thus, it can be helpful for sprint and release planning, but should be regarded as an estimate all the same.Perhaps the most valuable aspect of tracking velocity is the ability to observe how a team develops over time. That is, if a team consistently increases its velocity, it can be inferred that the team is learning to work together better and incrementally improving its performance.
To see an example of a team computing velocity, pay attention about halfway through this example Sprint Review Meeting.
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