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Don’t Equate Story Factors to Hours



I’m an enormous proponent of estimating in story factors. (You will get a full overview of find out how to use story factors within the video above or from studying What Are Story Factors.)

In all of my coaching and writing about story factors, person tales, planning poker, and agile estimating, I’ve been fairly adamant that story factors are about effort. I’ve additionally defined that we speak about that effort by way of how lengthy it’s going to take to complete as a result of that’s 1) how we naturally take into consideration the hassle concerned to do a process and a pair of) how we are able to reply questions on when a challenge may be delivered.

However after I say that agile story factors are about effort and that effort is measured in time, it doesn’t imply groups ought to say, “One story level equals eight hours.” Nor ask, “One story level is what number of hours?” Equating story factors to a set variety of hours is a nasty concept. Don’t do it.

Equating hours to story factors obviates the first purpose to make use of story factors within the first place: Story factors are useful as a result of they permit crew members who carry out at totally different speeds to speak and estimate the quantity of labor collaboratively.

Story factors work as a result of they’re relative items of measure, whether or not you’re estimating with a set of playing cards, T-shirt sizing, or the Fibonacci sequence. (For extra on why relative estimates are important, learn The Principal Purpose to Use Story Factors.)

Agile Estimation Is Summary On Objective

Through the use of story factors, agile groups with builders who work at totally different speeds can agree on estimates. A senior developer would possibly be capable of knock out a sure product backlog merchandise in 8 hours, and a extra junior developer would possibly take 16 hours to do the identical work, however they will each agree that it’s a 1-point story.

With that settlement in place, they will have a look at one other story and agree that it’ll take twice as a lot effort, so it must be value two factors. Or it’s 5 occasions as a lot effort, and must be 5 factors.

Let’s have a look at an instance. For simplicity, let’s assume the crew has two members:

Celebrity is extra skilled, expert, and educated than Junior. This results in Celebrity being 4 occasions extra productive than Junior. Any process that Junior can full in 4 hours, Celebrity can full in a single.

This crew of two has a median velocity of 25 story factors per dash. This results in them planning to finish the next product backlog objects within the coming dash.

Pictures factors
A 10
B 5
C 5
D 5


As a result of Celebrity is 4 occasions extra productive than Junior, Celebrity will be capable of full 4 occasions as many factors within the dash. Which means Celebrity will full 20 and Junior 5 of the 25 factors deliberate within the dash.

Junior can work on any of the five-point objects and efficiently full it in the course of the dash. Let’s assume Junior chooses merchandise D. That leaves Celebrity with objects A, B, and C as proven under.


Gadgets Factors Celebrity Junior
A 10 X  
B 5 X  
C 5 X  
D 5   X
Complete   20 5


So what can we inform somebody who asks, “What number of hours does it take to finish one level?”

If we assume this instance is a 1-week, 40-hour dash, there are 3 attainable solutions.

  • Celebrity labored 40 hours and delivered 20 factors. Subsequently, one level takes two hours of labor.
  • Junior labored 40 hours and delivered 5 factors. Subsequently 1 level takes 8 hours. Be aware that Junior’s variety of hours per level is 4 occasions that of Celebrity. This corresponds to the preliminary assumption that Celebrity is 4 occasions as productive.
  • Collectively, they labored 80 hours and accomplished 25 factors. Subsequently, 1 level takes 3.2 hours (80/25).

You possibly can see from this instance that there is no such thing as a equivalence between factors and hours. You can not say one level equals such-and-such variety of hours. For Celebrity, some extent is 2 hours, for Junior it’s 8 hours, and for the crew it’s 3.2 hours.

But when the crew doesn’t hearken to me, they usually outline some extent as being equal to three.2 hours, Junior and Celebrity will be unable to agree on estimates as a result of they produce such dramatically totally different leads to 3.2 hours.

With story factors, however, everybody can speak about and estimate the work, and the estimate might be correct regardless of which developer works on the story. On this manner, story factors are nonetheless about effort, however the period of time it takes to finish every level shouldn’t be mounted on the identical quantity for all crew members.

Equating Story Factors to Hours Complicates Considering

The second downside with equating story factors to a set variety of hours is that crew members now not suppose abstractly. If somebody instructs crew members that one level equals eight (or any variety of) hours, the advantages of estimating in an summary however comparatively significant unit like story factors are misplaced.

Once you attempt as an alternative to transform story factors to hours, you instantly provoke an hours-to-story-points calculator in each crew member’s head. When instructed to estimate the hassle required for a narrative with a particular time per level in thoughts, the crew member will mentally estimate first utilizing the variety of hours after which convert that estimate to factors.

So in our first instance, a senior developer who may full a narrative in eight hours would name a product backlog merchandise a one-point story (8/8=1 level). A junior developer who would possibly take sixteen hours to do the work would name that very same product backlog merchandise a two-point story (16/8=2 factors). Mathematically, they’d each be proper, however they’d be miles away from one another by way of agreeing on an estimate.

When story factors are tied to a sure variety of hours, story factors are now not relative. Story level estimation turns into solely depending on who’s doing the work.

If somebody in your organization needs to begin translating story factors to hours, simply cease calling the items factors and use the label of hours or days as an alternative. Calling them factors once they’re actually simply hours introduces pointless complexity (and loses one of many foremost advantages of factors: crew members with totally different ability ranges have a standard unit of measure).

The Relationship Between Story Factors and Hours

So is there a relationship of agile story factors to hours? Sure. Suppose for some purpose you’ve tracked how lengthy each one-story-point story took to develop for a given crew, and saved it in a story-points-to-hours desk. Should you graphed that knowledge you’ll have one thing that might appear to be this:

In agile project management, teams spend time estimating how much effort is involved with each product backlog item. Graphing how long every one-point story takes a given team over time results in a bell-shaped curve.

This reveals that some tales took extra time than others and a few tales took much less time, however general the period of time spent in your one-point tales takes on the form proven.

Now suppose you had additionally tracked the period of time spent on two-point person tales. Graphing that knowledge as effectively, we might see one thing like this:

Two-point stories also follow a bell curve, and  take about twice as long as one-point stories.Ideally the two-point tales would take twice so long as the one-point tales. That’s unlikely to be precisely the case, after all. However a crew that does a very good job of estimating might be sufficiently shut for dependable plans to be created from their estimates primarily based on their common crew velocity.

What these two figures present us is that the connection between factors and hours is a distribution. One level equals a distribution with a mode of x, two factors equals a distribution with a mode of 2x, and so forth.

By the best way, discover that I’ve drawn the distributions of one- and two-point tales as having overlapping tails. It is rather doubtless that among the most time-consuming one-point backlog objects take longer than among the shortest two-point objects. In any case, no crew can estimate with good perception, particularly on the story level stage.

So, whereas the tails of the one- and two-point distributions will overlap, it might be terribly unlikely that the tails of, say, the one- and thirteen-point distributions will overlap (I’m assuming right here that you’re utilizing a modified fibonacci sequence to your story factors, however you could possibly use any set of numbers).

Why This Issues

Some agile groups outline the connection between story factors and hours as an equivalence. That’s one level equals some variety of hours. And by extension, two factors is twice that variety of hours and so forth.

This can be a mistake, and makes factors irrelevant as a result of they merely grow to be a translation of hours. Mapping story factors to hours makes it unimaginable for crew members who produce their work at totally different charges to agree on estimates. Groups that convert Jira story factors to hours via a hard and fast equivalence (similar to one level equals eight hours) will find yourself with inaccurate plans.

These issues recede when groups perceive that the connection between story factors and hours is a distribution. That’s, one-point objects take from x to y hours. And two-point backlog objects take from about 2x to 2y hours.

So How Many Hours Is a Level?

When doing agile estimating, changing story factors to hours via a easy one level equals x hours system will lead to deceptive solutions which are overprecise. When stakeholders inform us issues like, “translate all these loopy agile fibonacci story factors to hours so I do know what it means” they need merely to know find out how to interpret the story factors we inform them.

We will present that understanding utilizing velocity. Suppose stakeholders need to understand how lengthy a 5-point backlog merchandise will take and that our crew’s common velocity is 20. We will inform the stakeholders that the five-point merchandise is about one-fourth of the crew’s complete capability for the dash.

Going Additional

If you wish to make sure you perceive story factors, I recommend this on-demand video course on Estimating with Story Factors.



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