Sprint velocity is term that describes how much work a team can work through in one Sprint. This number is helpful to guide the Scrum Master and Product Owner how much defined work they need as they enter a new Sprint. When starting a new Agile or Scrum Team you can guess a team velocity but it is still only a guess. Working with Kent McDonald and Arin Sime they gave us guidance as we started our first Sprint on what to set our velocity at. We at first were conservative in setting our Sprint Backlog and needed to add some items as we moved through the Sprint. The whole team agreed we could commit to completing more work.
As a team moves through a few Sprints you can begin to get a reliable size of what the Sprint Velocity is. What do you measure the Sprint Velocity in? We started with hours for some of our first Sprints, but our Agile Coaches cautioned us against that. They said that people outside of the team may take that as actual time to completion. Some teams may just use Story Points to measure the velocity and some use t-shirt sizes.
If you change the team size or members you can change the velocity and need to re-calibrate your Sprint Velocity. The Scrum Master should try to shield the team from a lot of interruptions, these can negatively effect the velocity too. The product owner needs to be available everyday and involved in the daily Scrum meeting. If this isn’t the case the velocity will decrease as well.
Once you have a consistent Sprint Velocity you can then use this for release planning. This can be helpful in setting a product road-map to relay to internal and external customers of when features will be complete. It also can help a team through the Sprint Planning meeting, this is a good guide of how much work to commit to for the next Sprint.
Sprint Velocity is a useful metric for measuring a teams progress but it must be used wisely. It is never a good idea to compare team velocities to other teams as the teams make up is different from team to team.