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What Is Velocity In Agile

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Velocity in Agile refers to the estimated effort associated with work items that a team can complete in a given timeframe. It’s an important metric in Agile, and teams use it to measure the amount of work that teams can deliver in a single iteration. Solutions such as Propelo.ai are helping teams remove DevOps bottlenecks, Automate Workflows, and more.

Agile velocity is widely known from the Scrum process, where developers break down their work into user stories. Usually, to determine whether one user story will fit a single sprint/iteration, they measure its necessary effort in story points. Therefore, the number of story points that a team can deliver in an iteration forms their velocity for that development cycle.

What Does Velocity Mean?

The official definition of velocity from physics is “the rate at which an object changes its position”. Many people confuse it with speed; however, there is a slight difference between the two. Unlike velocity, speed has no direction, and it simply describes how fast an object moves regardless if it’s going forward, backward, or sideways.

That’s why some Agile teams focus on measuring their velocity. They aim to understand not just the speed they are working with but also how fast they can convert a work item into value. Alternatively said, in Agile, velocity measures a team’s ability to deliver outcomes (an actual value that customers pay for) rather than outputs (completing as much amount of work as possible).

What Does Agile Mean?

Agile represents a mindset and a unique approach to managing projects that continuously gathers customer feedback and focuses on adapting to changes. In Agile project management, everything that teams do is seen from the customer’s perspective. 

An example is the Scrum framework, where teams break down big projects into so-called user stories. They are designed to capture the customer’s intent for given product functionality and the business need behind it so that developers can deliver the best possible value. To measure the frequency and predictability of value delivery, they use Agile velocity. 

Keep reading below to find out how that happens.

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What Is a Velocity Chart in Agile?

The velocity chart in Agile is a graphic that indicates how many story points have been completed over several iterations. Alternatively, it tracks the amount of work (known as user stories in Agile) that a team has been able to deliver in a given period. 

The X-axis on the chart visualizes the total number of story points that a team has estimated to complete in a single iteration or over the entire project. On the other hand, the Y-axis represents the timeline where teams track how much work they’ve been able to deliver over several days (in a single development cycle) or multiple iterations until the end of the project. Depending on the chart, there is a downwards or upwards-pointing line crossing the graph that shows what’s the current progress of the team and indicates how much more work they have remaining. 

How to Improve Team Velocity in Agile?

There are a few techniques that you can use to improve team velocity in Agile. One of the most prominent ones is to analyze where work gets stuck, uncover dependencies and blockers so you can find ways to reduce their impact. 

Other useful techniques include:

  • Focus on visualizing the “Definition of Done” through process policies and acceptance criteria to make it clear for everybody on the team. This will help you prevent bugs and reworks. 
  • Reduce context switching to keep the developer’s focus on one thing at a time. This can be done by imposing Work In Progress limits, but also the Scrum Master should aim to shield the team from external distractions. 
  • Break down the user stories into smaller pieces (if possible) to improve their flow. 
  • Increase the Product Owner’s involvement in the work process to reduce misunderstandings and make the user story’s details clearer.

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