I may or may not be the first person to of looked at this, this way, so forgive me if it’s written somewhere else and I have not noticed! Recently I have been working with a clients department, there was not a consistent use of estimating techniques, nor was there a consistent way to present progress outside of the usual sprint demo way. So I tried this as an alternative, instead of looking at points delivered per sprint, I chose points planned versus points delivered as a measure of accuracy, we chose to label this ‘planning accuracy’. I thought about this for a while, and over the years it seems to me that velocity may well of just become a way to beat a development team with a velocity stick, one team delivers more points than another, thus they are more productive it would seem…..it is certainly all too easy for it to be viewed this way. With reflection, it seems to me that a teams ability to deliver a level of planning accuracy may well be a far more useful metric for a business to plan on.
Contemplate a couple of scenarios;
We have a really performant team they are delivery 100 story points per sprint, the other teams in the department are only doing 80 points - they are on fire, our best team! Now, this may well be true, however, you can get very little else from this statement in terms of ability to plan, or you could force a team back into a waterfall way of working.
Our best team in the department is 97% accurate with what they deliver in a sprint. We have been seeing this level of accuracy over a number of months now and pretty much rely on them to deliver what they say they will when they say they will. Currently, they are working towards a major milestone and the whole team is confident that it will be hit when they say it will.
It's a subtle change of thought and measurement, but it is certainly an interesting one. For a product company, it could well be far more important to understand a teams level of accuracy when they plan a sprint, as it could well give far more confidence around a major release of something product based that will be underpinned by a marketing campaign, which if not coordinated correctly could be a complete waste of money and time, and in the worst case cause a loss of market share.
On another positive note, it is far less aggressive to ask people to assess their ability to plan accurately, than to set a race between teams to deliver story points, which differ so widely by teams anyway. It is also a far more meaningful and satisfying thing to be able to plan accurately in terms of team morale. From a business perspective it is far better to be able to rely on delivery from a team than to say a team does stuff really fast, sometimes its done when we need it sometimes not…..I’ll leave that one with you anyway, try it see how you get on with it!