5 Easy Ways to Improve Sprint Velocity in Scrum Teams

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 the 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.

Getting Started

When you’re first starting you can create an estimated guideline, which will be modified after the first sprint. It is recommended to use ? 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.

3. Streamline Your Testing

Avoid overlapping tests unless there is a good reason to test a feature more than once. Start by evaluating your user interface and integration tests. These tests usually cover many components end-to-end and are likely to include test repetitions.

There is no reason to retest code if it hasn’t changed. If you are testing code as you go, you have already checked code created in previous iterations. You should already have found and fixed any issues it contained and don’t need to test again.

Limit testing seldom-used features, within reason. You should create a balance of quality assurance and pragmatism. If a feature is rarely or never used, there is less benefit to devote significant testing time to it.

4. Promote Focus and Consistency

Try to define task priorities before your sprint starts and don’t adjust what you’ve set if possible.  If team members have to switch between tasks due to changing priorities or demands, their productivity will suffer. Multitasking doesn’t work and the result is often lost time and numerous incomplete tasks.

Managing scope doesn’t mean you can’t alter features; rather, you should avoid unnecessary changes. Your project scope is the amount of functionality a product provides. If your scope is changing mid-sprint, you cannot accurately predict or plan project times. Scope changes should typically be happening only in-between sprints.

5. Embrace Cross-Training

Cross-training can help prevent bottlenecks and gaps caused by changes in the team structure. It also enables team members to more effectively cover responsibilities if a member is sick or on vacation.

You should use knowledge transfer sessions to improve the overlap of skills and promote team communication. Eliminating specific job titles can help break down silos of responsibility and foster collaboration.

If there are skill or proficiency gaps in your team, consider including training sessions or hiring external consultants. Consultants can help increase your team’s skills. They can also provide guidance on how to adapt processes or infrastructures to current abilities. Incorporating training can help boost team morale as it shows that you are willing to invest in improving your team.

Conclusion

Remember that maximum velocity does not mean maximum productivity. Speed can lead to reduced quality if you are not careful. You should also remember that sprint velocity is just a metric. It can help you plan but it isn’t the final word on productivity or team worth.

Hopefully, this article helped you understand the benefits and limitations of sprint velocity. Use the tips provided here in combination with feedback from your team and adjust your processes accordingly. With a little patience and dedication, you can ensure productivity and consistency for your team.

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