What Is Velocity In Agile? Definition, Measure & Improve

Max 6min read

What Is Velocity In Agile?

Definition of Velocity In Agile

Each time the team finishes an iteration of work, they calculate their velocity by adding up the estimated effort for all the user stories they completed. Velocity shows how much work the team can typically get done in a single iteration. By knowing their velocity, the team can then look at all the user stories still left to do and make a forecast for how long the rest of the project might take. They take the estimated effort still remaining and divide it by the velocity to get a predicted number of iterations.

Velocity is a crucial metric in Agile development that refers to the amount of work a team can complete within a sprint, typically 2-4 weeks. To determine velocity, you measure how many story points or effort points the team finishes at the end of each sprint.

Story points estimate how complex or effort-intensive a given task or story will be. By tracking story points over multiple sprints, you start to see a pattern emerge of how much work the team consistently delivers within a sprint. This velocity acts as a guide for planning and estimating future work.

If a team’s average velocity is 30 story points per sprint, then you know you can expect about 30 work points to get finished each time. The velocity helps the team set realistic milestones and timelines by giving a sense of their actual capacity. It prevents overpromising to clients or stakeholders.

The velocity is primarily an internal metric for the Agile team. It gives transparency into their performance and helps identify areas to boost efficiency. Over time, continuously measuring velocity empowers the team to refine their estimates and take on the right amount of work for each sprint. An accurate velocity serves as a true North for the team’s progress and planning.

How Velocity Helps In:

Here is how velocity helps in various areas of Agile:

Sprint Planning

Velocity gives the team insight into how much work they can realistically commit to in a sprint. By looking at past velocities, they can estimate the scope for the upcoming sprint rather than taking on too much or too little.

Release Planning

The product owner and stakeholders can use velocity trends to forecast when features will get completed and potentially released. It helps set appropriate release timelines and priorities.

Continuous Improvement

Tracking agile velocity over multiple sprints provides data to identify areas for improvement. The team can assess why velocity increases or decreases and find process optimizations.

Transparency and Communication

Publishing velocity metrics promotes transparency. It facilitates meaningful discussions between team members, stakeholders, and management about progress, challenges, and expectations based on actual performance data.

In summary, having an accurate velocity measure supports better sprint planning, release forecasting, process improvements, and transparent reporting – all critical aspects of running a practical Agile project.

Different Ways to Measure Velocity

Here are some common ways to measure agile velocity in more detail:

  • Story Points Calculation: The team assigns complexity-based story points to each user story. At the end of the sprint, the team calculates velocity by adding all the points for the completed stories. It is one of the most widely used methods.
  • Backlog Items Completed: Simply count the total number of backlog items, such as user stories or tasks the team delivered in the sprint. This straightforward approach quantifies work done without using story points.
  • Sprint Review Evaluation: The product owner verifies which planned stories or backlog items fully get done during the sprint review. The team uses this evaluation to calculate agile velocity and determine how many completed items they have completed.
  • Historical Data Analysis: By analyzing velocity metrics over multiple past sprints, teams can determine an average velocity based on actual completion history. It provides a more accurate baseline than estimates.
  • Aggregated Effort: The team aggregates the total number of hours, days, or other effort units spent on all completed tasks in the sprint. Calculating velocity based on aggregated effort provides an alternative to story point methods.

These methods offer different ways for teams to measure and track their output over time to determine an accurate velocity score.

How to Calculate Velocity In Agile?

Your team’s velocity simply refers to how much work you can get done in a typical sprint. You’ll need to track your progress over a few sprints to figure it out.

Start by breaking your work down into small, clearly defined tasks called “user stories”. Assign each story an estimated point value based on how complex it seems – the simpler ones get 1 point, medium ones 2-3 points, and so on.

Now, run some test sprints. At the end, add up the total points for all completed stories. For example, if you finished five stories worth 2 points each, your velocity that sprint would be 10 points.

Keep doing this for 3-5 sprints until you get into a rhythm. In the beginning, your velocity may bounce around as the team learns how it works best. That’s okay!

Once you’ve run some sample sprints, calculate your average velocity. Add up the total points from each sprint and divide by the number of sprints. It gives you a realistic sense of what you can tackle in a typical 2-4 week sprint.

From there, use your average velocity to help plan future sprints. Set goals based on what you’ve shown you can reasonably achieve together as a team. And keep tracking – your velocity may increase over time as workflows improve.

The key is keeping things simple, learning from experience, and continually adapting your process based on real results. Velocity helps give you an honest sense of your team’s true capabilities.

Tips For Increasing Velocity

Here are some more elaborate tips for continuously improving agile velocity:

Resist the Lure of Obsessive Metric-Chasing

While metrics provide essential data, becoming too laser-focused on arbitrary numbers can be counterproductive. Teams may feel pressured to inflate estimates or cut corners to hit targets artificially. Instead of velocity obsession, foster a culture where innovation and quality get prized over raw throughput. Regularly assess whether metrics motivate high-quality work or unhealthy behaviors.

Overhaul Processes with Automation in Mind

Conduct a thorough value stream mapping exercise to pinpoint bottlenecks where time gets wasted on repetitive or manual tasks. Candidate areas include testing, deployment, documentation, or workflow approvals. Invest in automating such rote work through tools and custom scripts. It removes redundancy so teams can focus more on creative problem-solving.

Take a Structured Approach to Impediment Removal

It’s all too easy for roadblocks to fester when addressed reactively. Implement a formal system for proactively discovering, prioritizing, and resolving impediments. Track issues in a central database. Assign dedicated improvement time for tackling the most impactful problems. Consider establishing cross-functional teams to remove blockers holistically.

Deliberately Deconstruct Monolithic Work

Scrutinize the work item portfolio to spot overly large jobs requiring more than a week or two of effort. Collaborate with product owners to thoughtfully break these into more digestible chunks. Smaller batches improve work-in-progress limits, and the flow state teams need for optimal productivity.

Experiment Holistically with WIP Constraints

While limiting work in progress may boost focus, determine constraints through controlled trial rather than mandate. Gradually tighten WIP as teams adapt. Assess flow impacts qualitatively and quantitatively. Consider relaxing limits for unstable periods. Foster an environment where teams feel empowered to experiment freely with approaches like swarming.

Make Technical Debt Removal a Habit

Carrying technical debt is like carrying an albatross – it only gets heavier and slows future momentum. Institutionalize debt payments by auditing and systematically addressing code, process, design, and documentation issues in each increment. Lead by example with manager support, so debt dissolution is a cultural norm.

Rotate Pairing Deliberately

Implement various pairing approaches on a trial basis, rotating partners frequently. Capture learning through surveys on its effects on quality, knowledge transfer, problem-solving, and engagement. Adjust the approach based on empirical, not purely anecdotal, evidence. Pairing works best with supportive communities of practice.

Rather than obsessing over continuously increasing raw numbers, the goal of agile velocity tracking should be sustainable continuous improvement. Teams need flexibility to experiment and adapt their approaches through lessons from velocity data. 

A supportive culture where productivity enhancements value quality and innovation over short-term gains will lead to long-term enhanced outcomes. With regular evaluation and an openness to refining methods, agile teams can leverage their velocity to optimize performance.


How does agile velocity relate to consistency?

If the agile velocity fluctuates between the safe parameters established beforehand, it implies that the team is doing its work at an appreciable rate consistently.

Why is Velocity important in Agile?

Velocity gives a great idea about a team’s development and progress and can be used to measure productivity and make accurate predictions for the future for the team to perform better.

Crafting great product requires great tools. Try Chisel today, it's free forever.