Velocity vs. Cycle Time: Which Metric is Right for Your Team?
In the world of agile development, tracking the progress of work is a critical aspect of the development process. Velocity is a metric that is often used to measure how much work a team can complete in a given period. Velocity is a measurement of the average number of story points (or another unit of work) completed by the team in a sprint. The idea is to track the velocity over time to help the team plan how much work they can realistically complete in a sprint.
Members of the agile community often ponder over the best way to track velocity in their teams. One of the things that bother agile practitioners was the whether they were using velocity in the right way. The answer is - Depends. Depends on how that number is going to be used and what is measured for. The team needs to be careful about how the numbers are used, both within the team and with external stakeholders. While velocity is a useful metric for planning purposes, it should not be used for anything else.
It is very important to use the right metrics to measure progress. Velocity is a useful metric, but it is not the only one, nor is it always the best one. It is essential to consider what you are looking to achieve and use the right metric to measure progress. It is also important to use velocity in the right way, both within the team and with external stakeholders.
It is also important to highlight the fact that teams are not always self-organizing. Managers sometimes need to push the team towards a particular agenda. In such cases, team velocity can be a useful proxy metric. Another metric to consider is the Cycle time. Cycle time is the time it takes for a work item to move from the start to the end of the development process. It is a more accurate measure of progress, especially when it comes to understanding the impact of changes in the development process.
Then there are thousands of teams that track velocity using points on tickets getting to Done as the raw input. They normalize for days worked and track moving averages over 1, 3, and 5 sprints. The team defines what a point means, so velocity is not useful for comparing teams with each other. It's purely for the team to know how much they can plan for and to identify trends that can be further explored in a retrospective.
While managers can push the team towards a particular agenda, the team should have the freedom to decide how they want to track progress. Self-organizing teams are more likely to take ownership of their work and be more engaged in the development process.