Unraveling Story Point Estimation Techniques

This blog will explain the concept of story points, and agile story pointing best practices.

Agile estimation techniques are crucial in software development, providing value not only for planning but also for communication, coordination, and learning. At the core of these techniques is a concept known as 'story points'. So, what is a story point in agile, and what should be taken into account when estimating these?

Understanding the Basics

The story point definition is one of the fundamentals of agile methodology. Story points are a measure of effort required to implement a user story, an element of work that has a particular value to a user. They represent the overall difficulty of a task, taking into consideration complexity, risk, and uncertainty. Thus, the values are determined based on these three elements.

It is important to highlight that story points are not directly associated with time. A common misunderstanding is to equate a story point with a specific number of man-hours. However, story points encapsulate more than just the time required. The complexity, amount of work, and the uncertainty are all considered while estimating story points. Therefore, what do story points represent? Essentially, they provide an overall perspective on the difficulty level of a user story.

Story Point Estimation Agile: The Why and the How

Agile estimation aids in understanding how much work the team can handle in a single sprint. This technique is known as 'sprint pointing' or 'scrum pointing' in the scrum point system. It enables teams to estimate user stories, contributing to effective project management.

So, how to assign story points? It's important to remember that the process of pointing stories is relative. This means that the estimation techniques are used to compare the effort, complexity, and uncertainty of one user story to another. The most common method to assign points is through the Fibonacci-like format where the numbers increase progressively, providing room for uncertainty and complexity.

What should be taken into account when estimating story points?

1. Use a Consistent Scale

Consistency is key. Teams often use the Fibonacci sequence (1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, …) as their scale. The logic behind this is that as the size of a story grows, the amount of uncertainty (and thus risk) increases.

2. Estimation Points Should Be a Team Effort

The process should be collective. Every team member's perspective is crucial in the estimatation process, considering their experience, skills, and understanding of the requirements.

3. Reevaluate Regularly

Values aren't set in stone. As the team evolves, and as more information is acquired, it's crucial to regularly reevaluate estimates, making necessary adjustments.

4. Avoid Directly Equating with Time

As mentioned, story points encapsulate more than just time. They represent a holistic view of the effort required to complete a story.

What is the Best Definition of Story Points?

In essence, they are a unit of measure that expresses the overall effort involved in developing a user story. This effort includes not just the amount of work, but also the complexity of the task, and the inherent risk or uncertainty associated with it.

A Final Word on Agile Story Points Estimation

To sum it all up, story points are an integral part of agile project management, aiding in planning, estimating, and managing work. Remember that they are not about defining how long a task will take, but instead providing a relative measure of effort and complexity.

The process of estimating, also known as pointing stories, involves using a consistent scale, engaging the whole team in estimation, reevaluating estimates regularly, and avoiding a direct equation with time.

Finally, what's important to remember is that these techniques are tools to assist you, and not rules to be rigidly followed. The main goal of using agile estimation techniques is to support your team in delivering value effectively and efficiently.

We hope this deep dive into agile story point estimation, from story point definition to best practices, helps you enhance your approach to user story estimation, and contributes to more effective and enjoyable project journeys.