Sprint Velocity: The Ultimate Guide
Know everything about sprint velocity, its importance in agile planning, and how to measure and visualize velocity for teams.
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The software development process is complex. It involves various tasks that need to be distributed among teams and completed within a designated time frame. Managers need to be on top of the software development process and establish a workflow that can be traced, as mismanagement of even a minuscule size can lead teams to compromise on deadlines. This is where a metric like Sprint Velocity can help set achievable targets and gain visibility into the process.
What Is Sprint Velocity?
In the agile development framework, teams divide the available time into smaller durations or sprints, which can be certain days or weeks. The number of completed tasks at the end of each sprint is the velocity of that particular sprint, and the average velocity value across these sprints is the sprint velocity of the entire development process. Calculating sprint velocity is crucial in the development process as it determines the success rate in achieving deadlines. Apart from helping determine achievable deadlines, the sprint velocity metric also finds other applications in the agile development process and in the developer's well-being.
How is Velocity Helpful for Scrum Teams?
Regularly tracking sprint velocity can help software teams gain visibility into the project's progress and blockers hindering it. Not achieving the target sprint velocity can signal issues managers can look into and analyze. This enables them to understand the blockers in the development process and identify gaps — both internal and external. Here are other insights that can be obtained by calculating sprint velocity:
- Understand the technical difficulties in the project
- Optimize resource allocation between sprints
- Uncover blockers in different stages of the development process, be it writing codes, testing, or feedback and rework
- Discover if there are any discrepancies in the objectives provided by stakeholders
- Find out if the requirements are changed frequently
Though the benefits of constantly calculating sprint velocity are plenty, there is no one way to do it. Organizations have multiple concepts to calculate sprint velocity in their agile planning process.
How Do We Measure and Visualize Sprint Velocity?
Every team, every project, and every client is unique. Hence calculating velocity across these verticals can be challenging. Over the years, organizations have come up with different variables and constants that can help them calculate and analyze the sprint velocity. The most common among them are:
- User story
- Definition of Done
- Velocity graph
- Burndown chart
A user story is the quantifiable translation of the requirements needed to complete a particular feature, module, or product based on the benefit from an end-user perspective. The user story is assigned points based on the complexity and effort needed from a minor story or bug fix, earning 1 point and a significant development or edits ranging between 5 to 8 points. Again, this varies across sprints, teams, and departments.
Planning capacity for the team helps arrive at a realistic valuable available to complete the user stories. Capacity planning helps estimate the available bandwidth to develop, test, and edit user stories. This metric is arrived at by calculating individual availability and mapping it to the list of user stories, thus giving the aggregate of the time the team has to complete the task. Assuming a developer ideally has 6 hours of productivity bandwidth after meetings, breaks, and other routine activities, and a team has about eight developers working five days a week for three weeks, the capacity is 720 hours.
Definition of Done (DoD)
Defining the Definition of Done is an agreed-upon set of conditions or acceptance criteria that a process must meet for it to be complete in the perspective of the end user. It can contain various parameters such as testing, review, documentation, and so on, but should meet the completed criteria set by the end user.
The velocity graph comes in handy while calculating the sprint velocity as it highlights the amount of work done and the amount of work remaining in the user story or task. It provides insights into the average amount of work to be completed to achieve the desired results in the sprint. The story point is plotted along the y-axis, and the completed sprints are on the x-axis, and both come together to provide an understanding of the team's performance and set up future targets.
While almost similar to the velocity graph, the burndown chart gives insights into the team's progress in completing the committed task across all user stories within a single sprint. The slope of the burndown chart helps predict if the story will be completed early, on time, or late.
Sprint Velocity Is Not the Only Metric You Need
As mentioned earlier, the spring velocity formula can differ across teams, processes, projects, and clients. Managers should not target a higher sprint velocity and align goals to increase the number. In fact, sprint velocity is:
Increasing the velocity alone can be complex and counterproductive, especially without any data or tools to back it up. Managers should also leverage other assessment factors like better code reviews, quality assessment, and better planning throughout the development process by taking a data-driven stand rather than a completion-oriented one. Managers should have access to other software development metrics like code churn, maker time, and even async stand-ups to identify blockers effectively and leverage the gathered insights from these metrics to improve sprint velocity. To do this, they need an engineering analytics platform that encompasses the critical tools and analytics to optimize the software development process.
Published at DZone with permission of Avya Chaudhary. See the original article here.
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