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Brandon Foster
Brandon Foster

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What Is Velocity for Project Management?

Whether you’re a rookie PM or a seasoned expert, this guide will teach you how to leverage velocity for streamlined project planning and delivery. Full steam ahead!

Behind the scenes, behind the code, it’s the unsung heroes: project managers, Scrum masters, and product owners quietly steering the ship (I swear I’m not biased as a PM).

But seriously, they really are the compasses guiding teams toward “launch.”

Velocity is a metric used in Agile project management methodologies like Scrum to help estimate how much work can be completed in a given timeframe.

It’s a crucial measurement for data-driven decision-makers. Understanding it is what makes you a pro at bringing digital products to life efficiently.

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Velocity Explained

Velocity refers to the amount of work a team can complete during a single sprint iteration. In Agile frameworks, work is broken down into small, manageable pieces. These are otherwise known as "user stories."

Teams aim to tackle user stories within fixed sprint cycles, usually lasting 1-4 weeks.

User stories are measured in story points. These are a unit of measure (an estimation) for expressing the overall size, complexity, and effort required to develop a user story. These points are typically assigned collaboratively.

Popular methods that people use to assign story points collaboratively include:

  • Planning Poker: This is the most common method and involves individual estimates being revealed simultaneously, followed by discussion and consensus-building if estimates differ.
  • Agile Estimation Games: Use playful methods like "Scrum Jenga" or "Scrumopoly" to engage team members and encourage discussion.
  • Delphi Technique: Team members provide anonymous estimates in multiple rounds, with each round incorporating knowledge gained from the previous round.
  • Dot Voting: Participants vote on individual stories using dots, with the number of dots reflecting their estimated effort.
  • 100 Story Points Bucket System: Divide 100 points among stories based on estimated effort, focusing on overall capacity rather than individual story values.

Velocity represents the sum of all story point estimates for user stories that were fully completed by the team within a sprint.

Over the course of multiple sprints, a team's velocity begins to average out, providing a reliable metric to forecast how much work the team can handle per sprint.

Teams aim to deliver completed work at a consistent velocity. This helps provide predictability and improve planning and prioritization.

Velocity Relies on Team Efforts and Consistency

Picture this: We're a team on a mission. We've got a backlog of tasks, and we're sprinting toward our goal.

Velocity is our speedometer, telling us how fast we're progressing. It's not just about covering ground though – it's about covering it effectively so we don’t run out of steam or have the wheels fall off.

Consistent velocity indicates a stable and predictable team, making it easier to plan future sprints.

Our velocity reflects our team's collaborative strength. But it's not a race against time. High velocity doesn't necessarily mean success. It's about maintaining a pace we can sustain. Rushing might lead to burnout, jeopardizing quality.

We aim for a velocity that's not just fast but sustainable. Velocity also serves as our guide through times of uncertainty. As we progress, our understanding of the project evolves.

Our team uses monday dev’s velocity charts to do this because they save time and allow all members to clearly see all sprints, their statuses, who they’ve been assigned to, and what priority level they are – in one place.

Nothing slows feedback or standup meetings down more than trying to figure out what the visuals are showing you before you can even discuss their information. To keep information uniform, my team uses customizable templates.

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How is Velocity Calculated?

Velocity isn't a measure of individual output – it's a collective effort. Velocity is calculated by totaling the number of story points for all fully completed user stories at the end of each sprint. Partially completed stories do not count towards velocity.

Here is the basic formula:

Velocity = Sum of story points of completed stories / How long they took to complete

Example: sprint 1:

For example, let's say in sprint 1, a team completed user stories worth the following story points:

Story A: 3 points

Story B: 2 points

Story C: 5 points

Therefore, their velocity for sprint 1 would be 10 points.

Example sprint 2:

In sprint 2, they completed:

Story D: 8 points

Story E: 3 points

Therefore, their sprint 2 velocity would be 11 points.

A team's average velocity is calculated by taking the average of their velocity across recent sprints (usually the last 3-5). This helps smooth out variances between sprints.

Don’t worry! If you’re not a math wiz (or hate math like me), monday dev does all the calculations for us, so I recommend checking it out.

Why is Velocity Important?

If a team takes on too much or too little work, it can impact quality or progress. Using velocity features in our project management tool helps my team keep the balance – allowing us to maintain a sustainable pace of work.

There are two main reasons why velocity is so important when it comes to project management: Forecasting and sprint planning.


Velocity provides crucial insight into how quickly a team can realistically deliver work items and projects.

Product owners can better estimate how many sprints it will take to complete upcoming projects by calculating the team's capacity over previous sprints.

Sprint Planning

Velocity helps inform sprint planning and how much new work a team can commit to each sprint.

Based on past velocity, the team can pull in an appropriate amount of new user stories to meet their target velocity rate for that sprint.

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Velocity Best Practices

Tracking velocity sprint-over-sprint enables more accurate forecasting and planning over time. Below are some key best practices for managing velocity:

  • Calculate after 2+ sprints once work has stabilized.
  • Aim to keep velocity consistent from sprint to sprint.
  • Remove outliers or abnormal sprints from the velocity average.
  • Re-calibrate story points if necessary.
  • Factor in holidays, vacations, and known team changes.
  • Don’t overwork the team to inflate velocity.
  • Review trends – is your team’s velocity increasing or decreasing over time?

The Bottom Line

Velocity in project management is the speed at which a team completes tasks. It's not just about going fast but about delivering value consistently. It helps us plan better and adapt as a team.

Velocity is a simple yet powerful metric for Agile teams and sprint planning. Understanding velocity helps predict what a team can accomplish, thus enabling better planning.

The beauty of velocity is that it unveils patterns. If our velocity suddenly drops, it's a red flag. We pause, reflect, and address the issue.

Maybe we're overburdened, or there's a bottleneck. Velocity prompts us to ask why and find solutions.

Velocity also encourages continuous improvement. We experiment, learn, and adjust. If a new technique boosts our efficiency, our velocity reflects it. It's a constant cycle of growth and refinement.

But, like any metric, ****velocity in project management has its limitations. It's a tool, not a magic wand. External factors, like team dynamics or unforeseen challenges, can influence it.

My advice is to leverage technology like my team has with monday dev. Having the right tools means you’ve won half the battle already!

Let me know if you have any comments or questions about velocity in project management. You’re also welcome to share any tips you have on managing and improving team velocity in the comments section below!

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