Forecast your product backlog

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Teams use the forecast tool to help in their sprint planning efforts. By plugging in a value for the team velocity, the forecast tool will show which items in the backlog can be completed within future sprints. Both tools are team-specific tools that rely on the team's ability to estimate backlog items. Once your team has completed a sprint or two, they can use the team velocity to forecast how much of the backlog they can finish within the upcoming sprints.

Use this article to learn:

  • How to forecast upcoming sprints
  • Required and recommended team activities to support forecasting

Prerequisites

Here's what you need to have in place before you attempt to forecast your team's backlog.

Required:

Recommended:

  • Define and size backlog items to minimize variability.
  • Determine how your team wants to treat bugs. If your team chooses to treat bugs like requirements, bugs will show up on the backlog and be counted within the Velocity chart and forecasting.
  • Set your team's area path. The forecast tool will forecast those items based on your team's default settings. These settings can specify to include items in area paths under the team's default or exclude them.
  • Don't create a hierarchy of backlog items and bugs. The display of the leaf node, the last node in a same-category hierarchy, may only appear on Kanban boards, sprint backlogs, and taskboards. To learn more, see Fix reordering and nesting issues, How backlogs and boards display hierarchical (nested) items.
    Instead of nesting requirements, bugs, and tasks, maintain a flat list—only creating parent-child links one level deep between different-category items. Use Features to group requirements or user stories. You can quickly map stories to features. The map creates parent-child links in the background.
  • At the end of the sprint, update the status of those backlog items that the team has fully completed. Incomplete items should be moved back to the product backlog and considered in a future sprint planning meeting.

Note

If you work with several teams, and each team wants to work with their own backlog, velocity chart, and forecast tool, you can create additional teams. Each team then gets access to their own set of Agile tools. Each Agile tool filters work items to only include those whose assigned area paths and iteration paths meet those set for the team.

Forecast upcoming sprints

Use the forecast tool to get an idea of how many items you can complete within a sprint. By plugging in a velocity, you can see which items are within scope for the set of sprints the team has activated.

To forecast your product backlog, complete the following actions.

Review the forecast results

  • Check the results manually to understand discrepancies in what you expect and what the forecast tool displays.
  • Check the amount of effort (Effort, Story Points, or Size) forecasted per sprint.
  • Question forecast results where the effort of an item is near to, or greater than, team velocity.

The forecast tool shows only those work items that can be completed within a sprint between the forecast lines. Unused velocity points from one sprint are considered in the forecast of the following sprint. The forecasted sprint is listed along with the last item that can be completed during that sprint.

In this example, a velocity of 20 is used. The first two items with a total of 13 Effort points can be completed in Sprint 2.

In summary:

  • Sprint 2: 13 Effort points, items 1 and 2 can be completed; 7 velocity points are carried over to the next sprint
  • Sprint 3: 24 Effort points, items 3 through 5 can be completed; 3 (=20+7-24) velocity points are carried over to the next sprint
  • Sprint 4: 21 Effort points, items 6 through 8 can be completed; 2 (=20+3-21) velocity points are carried over to the next sprint
  • Sprint 5: 16 Effort points, items 9 through 12 can be completed; 6 (=20+2-16) velocity points are carried over to the next sprint
  • Sprint 6: 19 Effort points, items 13 through 15 can be completed; 3 (=20+6-23) velocity points are carried over to the next sprint

Web portal, Enter a velocity to show forecast lines

Determine the velocity needed to complete all items in the backlog

Another way to use the forecast tool is to enter different velocity values until all the backlog items are completed within a given set of sprints. This forecast provides an estimate of what velocity is required to complete your backlog of items.

You can then assess the delta between the current team's velocity and the required velocity. The delta helps determine what other resources are required to meet production demands within a required time.

Next steps