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Mark is a graph advocate and field engineer for Neo Technology, the company behind the Neo4j graph database. As a field engineer, Mark helps customers embrace graph data and Neo4j building sophisticated solutions to challenging data problems. When he's not with customers Mark is a developer on Neo4j and writes his experiences of being a graphista on a popular blog at He tweets at @markhneedham. Mark is a DZone MVB and is not an employee of DZone and has posted 553 posts at DZone. You can read more from them at their website. View Full User Profile

Agile: Chasing a points total

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I've previously written about the danger of using velocity as a goal but on almost every project I've worked on at some stage we do actually end up chasing a points total.

Something I find quite interesting towards the end of an iteration is that if there is a choice of two stories to pick up then the project manager will nearly always press for one which can be completed within the remaining time in order to get the points total for that iteration higher.

This might even mean that we pick something which is lower priority because we might not finish a higher priority but larger story in time.

This would mean that the points for that card would not be recognised until the next iteration which would mean that in the current iteration the points total would be lower than expected.

Most of the time this doesn't make a great amount of difference and if it helps take some pressure off and create an impression of 'success' then it seems a reasonable trade off to make.

It does still seem less than ideal to have that type of decision dictated by such a limited metric though.

Dermot pointed me to a blog post by Tim Ross titled 'Are burndowns evil?' where he discusses this in more detail and although I agree with the points Tim makes, it often seems that a product owner ends up with the impression that the project is 'failing' or that we are 'behind' if the velocity 'target' is not being met each iteration.

It seems to take product owners who are new to a more agile approach a bit of time to get used to the idea that achieving the points total isn't the most important thing to focus on and that it's more useful to focus on other things which actually give them value.

I've worked on projects where we've got to the stage where the points total is a side show but it takes quite a bit of time of consistently delivering before we can get that level of trust.

Published at DZone with permission of Mark Needham, author and DZone MVB. (source)

(Note: Opinions expressed in this article and its replies are the opinions of their respective authors and not those of DZone, Inc.)



Paul Russel replied on Sun, 2012/06/10 - 4:45am

We haven't used points or velocity for about 18 months, instead the team focuses on valuable feature releases - getting those features out and in the hands of users is the most important thing. We don't bother tracking because we don't need to, releasing early and often gives the impression we're making progress, and that's all that really matters to build trust.

Recently however, we were staring at some features that were going to take over 2 months to complete, at which point we considered tracking velocity so we could manage expectations. Fortunately, as it happened, we broke the uber feature apart in a few places and we're able to release early and often again! (It was close...)

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