5 Easy Ways to Improve Sprint Velocity in Scrum Teams
Increasing sprint velocity is often a top priority of scrum masters, product owners, and CEOs. However, higher velocity does not necessarily mean greater productivity. Focusing only on increasing velocity can be damaging to teams. An alternative is to focus on improving sprint velocity.
Improving velocity includes building consistency and increasing quality of work within sprints, as opposed to just increasing speed. In this article, you’ll learn what sprint velocity measures. You’ll also gain five tips for improving the velocity and productivity of your team.
What Is Sprint Velocity?
Sprint velocity measures the amount of work completed in a sprint. Work completed includes any finished tasks, such as features, user stories, requirements, and backlog items. It does not include partially completed items. The amount of work is based on assigned point values of items, work hours, or ideal days.
Point values are determined by how large and complex an item is. More complex items count for more points. For points and work completed to be meaningful, teams must consistently assign values. To develop a reliable system, you should start with your simplest item and assign it a point value of one. You can then assign a value to the rest of your tasks according to this baseline case.
How to Use Sprint Velocity
Sprint velocity is useful for predicting how soon features can be delivered, how many items can be delivered in each sprint, and for sprint(s) planning. This metric is more reliable as you accumulate more data. In general, you should base your planning on the average of your last three to four sprints.
When you’re first starting you can create an estimated guideline, which will be modified after the first sprint. It is recommended to use ⅓ of your available time for this estimate. For example, if you’re estimating four weeks in your project and five team members, you have the equivalent of 100 ideal days or 600 work hours. For your initial sprint, then, you should plan around 33 days of work or 198 hours.
5 Ways to Improve Sprint Velocity
Stabilizing and improving sprint velocity is a high-priority goal of many scrum teams. The following tips can help you achieve this goal with your team.
1. Use Metrics Responsibly
You should not try to compare velocities across teams. Teammates rate story point values differently, making comparison unreliable. You also need to be careful about using this measure across projects. Different product owners and complexities are difficult to hold to the same standard.
Remember that metrics get more reliable as you collect more data. Likewise, metrics are more meaningful when used in combination. Use sprint velocity in light of other agile metrics to ensure you are working with complete information.
Any metrics you use need to be reviewed and evaluated at retrospectives by your entire team. If you use metrics as a punishment, or to apply undue pressure, you are likely to damage team morale and decrease productivity.
2. Focus on Increasing Quality
Higher quality work can reduce the need to revise or fix work later, increasing productivity. Emphasizing the importance of quality from the start moves the bulk of your effort to initial stages. It can also reduce the risk of items returning to your backlog.
Keeping your focus on quality can also help you eliminate artificial inflation of velocity. If team members skip or devote less effort to quality, your speed will increase but at the cost of your productivity and ROI.