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What Is Velocity in Agile Methodology?

For many, the term “velocity” might conjure up images of Formula 1 cars speeding down a race track, accelerating faster as time ticks on. The Agile velocity definition is a little different, but it captures the same idea: speed.

Velocity in Agile, also known as throughput, is a measurement of how much work can be completed in a short period of time. In an Agile workplace, these time periods are known as iterations or sprints. They usually run for about two weeks, at the end of which a new deliverable is produced.

According to the Agile Alliance, the concept of Agile velocity was added to the Extreme Programming framework in 2000, replacing the “overly complex” notion of load factor.

How to calculate velocity in Agile

Within each iteration, there are units of work called user stories. These can be broken down further into metrics known as story points. For example, a relatively small user story might require two story points, while a more complex one will take eight story points. 

If you want to calculate your Agile velocity, your team will first need to complete a number of sprints. Then you can add up the story points for every sprint. For example, let’s say you achieve two story points in sprint one, five story points in sprint two, and eight story points in sprint three. You would simply add them all together and divide by the number of sprints to get your average Agile velocity.

In this example, the calculation for determining Agile velocity is:
(2 + 5 + 8) ÷ 3 = 15

Further reading
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The Ultimate Guide to Story Mapping Tools

Why measure velocity in Agile?

Agile teams work at a fast pace and can pivot swiftly when a change occurs. By measuring team velocity in Agile, you can get an accurate picture of just how quickly your team is moving. 

Velocity in Agile is a useful planning tool. If an Agile team knows roughly how much they can produce in an iteration, they can create more accurate timelines for their workload. It is also a good way of managing capacity and ensuring team members don’t suffer from burnout. For example, if an Agile team failed to complete all the user stories in a previous iteration, they can reduce the number for their next one.

It’s important to remember that velocity in Agile is not necessarily a target you should aim to exceed on a regular basis. If your team members are actively trying to increase the velocity number, they run the risk of rushing through the iteration, potentially skipping steps along the way and producing an inferior deliverable.

Overall, velocity in Agile methodology is a useful metric that helps you accurately assess your team’s efficiency and effectively plan for future iterations.