The Real Benefits of Estimating in Story Points
Practical ways to improve your risk management practices and team’s collective knowledge by estimating User Stories in Story Points.
Story Points have become a standard metric for software development teams for expressing estimates of the overall effort required to deliver features during the Sprint.
Unfortunately very often teams and business stakeholders put too much faith into the abstract number instead of directing their focus on the process of estimating.
Story Points are abstract numbers that were not invented to create quarterly based release plans, making a long-term commitments or building project plans based on team’s velocity — but to let teams be more efficient during their work in Sprints by helping them to early identify risks, improve collective knowledge of a team and build common understanding of business problems.
Use Story Points:
- To identify gaps in understanding what needs to happen to implement particular feature. It could help spread the technical knowledge in the team and improve the collective knowledge;
- To assess the level of risk during the Sprint, the greater the estimation the higher risk of unknowns unknows — things we are neither aware or nor understand. Consider sharing highly estimated User Stories with stakeholders, so they are aware of potential challenges during the Sprint;
- To look at the same problem from different perspectives;
- To build common understanding of business benefits and why the particular feature is being built;
- To find user stories / requirements that are too big, vague, complex to take them into the Sprint;
- To rectify false assumptions.
Don’t use Story Points:
- As an indicator of what would happen in the next Iteration, or how much work will be delivered during the Sprint.
Common challenges with Story Points:
- Taking estimation as a commitment. Estimation is just ‘prediction’ / ‘best guess’, not commitment.
- Teams having debates if they should re-estimate stories not Done in Sprints, or leave the previous estimation. It doesn’t make any difference — just be consistent in your process, if you agree on something do it regularly.
- Trying to be 100 percent accurate with the provided estimations. Your plan is going to change, it’s better to invest your time in more important activities than long estimation sessions i.e. do the work.
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