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What happens to the UNDONE work in a Sprint?

November 23, 2021

Even a well-set team with clear objectives may fail to finish each thing when the Sprint ends. 

When the Sprint was planned, the team might have thought about successfully tackling 6 Product Backlog Items (PBIs). But in reality, they might only address 4 or 5 PBIs. The rest of the items remain undone. 

How shall we address the issue of UNDONE items?


To discuss what should be done with UNDONE PBIs, let us focus on the Definition of Done, as stated by SCRUM. 

The Definition of DONE expresses the situation when an ‘Increment’ matches the quality parameters of the product.

An ‘Increment’ comes into existence when a PBI meets the Definition of Done. 

The definition, in this case, creates transparency for the team. Each team member has a shared understanding of the completed work, a segment of the ‘Increment’. 

When a PBI does not comply with the definition, it is a mistake to release it. It can’t be even presented during the Sprint Review. Instead, it is regarded as a future consideration.  

But the question remains – how to estimate the unfinished PBIs? Is it possible to re-estimate them, and is it valid? Shall the team calculate the velocity for the tasks they have already completed? Let us dig deeper, starting with the concept of Partial Credit. 

A Team should calculate the velocity for the Partially DONE work – YES or NO?

It should be clear at the very beginning – there is practically nothing as partially done. 

When a team completes a segment of a PBI, the members receive partial credit or points, accounting for the velocity. 

For example, if the team finishes half of the five-point PBI, the count is approximately 3, accounting for their velocity. 

As far as I see it, the idea is not good. The velocity should be calculated only in cases of completed PBIs, which comply with the Definition of Done. It fulfils two objectives:

  1. The velocity for the team becomes more relevant (not just a cosmetic parameter).
  2. There is no cutting of corners. The UNDONE work again enters the PBIs and is re-estimated. 

A prevalent question from the Management that a team has to address is reporting on the percentage of work yet to be done. 

It isn’t easy to calculate the exact percentage. But, in most cases, there is an overestimation. 

It happens because teams generally have a wrong notion that they are ahead of schedule. As a result, they over-estimate while calculating the velocity. One reason is the false expectation from the Management. I addressed this myth - Velocity is Productivity.

An inflated value of velocity is good only momentarily. It provides a false pride of achievement. But, it is not useful practically. It sends wrong signals about dealing with PBIs in the near future.  Read More>>



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