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Azure DevOps Velocity: A Guide to Data-Driven Sprint Management in Agile
Published:Nov 09, 2022

Azure DevOps Velocity: A Guide to Data-Driven Sprint Management in Agile

The built-in velocity tracking feature in Azure DevOps is a boon for software developers — provided you know how to use it right. 

Estimating your rate of progress from sprint to sprint isn’t as easy as it seems. Moreover, many project managers make the mistake of treating velocity as a key performance metric, encouraging team members to improve their performance without the necessary tools to do so.

But, there’s a right way to use velocity data. One that leads to much better project estimates and fewer overruns in budget and timeline. 

In this article, let’s take a look at everything you need to know about Azure DevOps Velocity — including how you can use the insights from this feature to create better effort estimates that lead to more accurate sprint planning. There’s much to unpack here, so let’s get started!

What Is Velocity in Azure DevOps?

Velocity, in the agile methodology, is defined as the rate of progress in software development from one sprint to the next. That is, it’s the amount of work your team manages to get done within the current sprint, before moving on to the next sprint.

And what’s the point of measuring velocity? 

As you continue to keep track of your team’s velocity from previous sprints, it’ll help you establish a pattern that leads to better budget estimates and deadline forecasts. You’ll have a better understanding of the time and effort required to complete a new project, which will empower you to make better decisions as a team lead.

Azure DevOps comes with built-in functionality that enables project managers and team leads to track the velocity of their entire team. You can access a report on your team’s velocity both as an in-context chart in your product backlog, or as a universal widget on the team dashboard. Each report has its own advantages and offers different means to customize the way you estimate your team’s velocity.

Velocity, in Azure DevOps, is calculated as the number of work item completed within any given sprint

Getting Started With DevOps Velocity

Before we dig deeper into Velocity in Azure DevOps, let’s take a few common terms you should be familiar with:

  • Backlog: Refers to the list of deliverables for any given software development project, sorted in order of priority. 
  • Sprints: time-boxed periods during which a development team tries to take on a specific task within the project, ranging from a week to one month.
  • Effort: The number of work units, usually measured in person-hours, required to complete a specific task or project. 
  • Stories: Work items in your product backlog that each refer to a feature to be developed or a bug to be fixed. Also called user stories or story points.
  • Burndown: It’s the rate at which a development team works through the project backlog. That makes velocity the slope in the burndown chart.

Velocity, in Microsoft Azure DevOps, is calculated as the number of work items completed within any given sprint. Note that since velocity is based on the number of work items that have been actually completed, if you begin working on a story point but are unable to finish it, DevOps will automatically flag it as Incomplete.

Once you have successfully completed a few sprints, Azure DevOps will populate your velocity chart based on the data it has managed to collect so far. You can then view this data, either as a 

widget on your team dashboard, or as an in-context report inside the product backlog.

Viewing the In-Context Report

To view the in-context report, you must first access your project backlog. You can do this by visiting the Backlogs tab inside Azure Boards. 

Velocity reports are available for both product and portfolio backlogs, all you have to do is visit your preferred backlog and choose Analytics>Velocity>View full report.

You can filter your velocity report based on the number of work items or the sum of estimates made to effort, story, or size. You can also select the number of iterations, between 1 to 15, that you wish to view this data for. Apart from the number of completed items per iteration, you’ll also be able to view the number of items flagged as Planned, Incomplete, or Completed Late.

Configuring the Velocity Widget

If you’d like to have a top-level view of your team’s workflow and progress from sprint to sprint, you can also configure the velocity widget to appear on your main dashboard.

Once you’re inside your admin panel in Azure DevOps, visit Overview > Dashboards. Then, click on the pencil-shaped edit icon to add a new widget to your dashboard. Choose the Velocity widget and click on Add

To configure the Velocity widget, click on the three dots (…) on the upper right of the screen. This will open the configuration dialog, where you can add a title to your widget as well as specify what it is you want the widget to display.

Use 7 pace to generate better insights through DevOps Velocity

Time-Tracking and DevOps Velocity: A Project Manager’s Toolkit

However, there’s one key dimension that’s missing from DevOps Velocity: time-tracking data.

Azure DevOps does a good job of letting you track the number of story points completed per iteration or sprint, but it doesn’t let you log the actual number of hours spent on each story point. And, without granular time-tracking data to assist your estimates, your velocity calculations just won’t be accurate.

The only solution is a time-tracking tool that integrates directly with Azure DevOps, letting you log your hours and view performance data natively inside your development environment. 

Enter 7pace.

7pace is a time-tracking extension for Azure DevOps and Github — built by software developers and for software developers. It gives you access to granular insight into your team’s performance each day, letting you see how much time they’re spending on each story.

7pace works natively inside your development environment. But, it also features downloadable clients for desktop and mobile. You can even take advantage of our API to integrate that data with other third-party services and applications!
Sounds interesting? Join development teams from Microsoft, AmericanExpress, and Hewlett Packard in choosing a data-driven time-tracking solution that helps you take your DevOps performance to new heights. Download our Azure DevOps extension today!

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