Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.
Velocity is the amount of work [measured in story points] completed by the team in a single sprint.
It’s an interesting metric because it’s both useful and frustrating at the same time. Velocity is useful to teams during the Sprint Planning meeting as a guide to the teams capacity … how much work the team can commit to.
Velocity is frustrating because it is often used inappropriately. Teams that are new to Scrum will assume that velocity represents the team’s productivity, and this is not the case. If a team allows this misunderstanding to go uncorrected, there is a danger that they will be asked for ” … a report that compares velocities between teams.”
I urge teams to push back on these requests because whatever the intent, a report comparing velocities will not provide useful information. Different teams will have different expertise, different experience and different team objectives. This is all reflected in the teams velocity making it unique for each team. So attempting to compare velocities between different teams is to compare different units of measure.
This is nicely captured in the following quote from Dave Nicolette:
How many Elephant Points are there in the veldt? Let’s conduct a poll of the herds. Herd A reports 50,000 kg. Herd B report 84 legs. Herd C reports 92,000 lb. Herd D reports 24 head. Herd E reports 546 elephant sounds per day. Herd F reports elephant skin rgb values of (192, 192, 192). Herd G reports an average height of 11 ft. So, there are 50,000 + 84 + 92,000 + 24 + 546 + 192 + 11 = 142,857 Elephant Points in the veldt. The average herd has 20,408.142857143 Elephant Points. We know this is a useful number because there is a decimal point in it.