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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 the way 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, consumer tales, planning poker, and agile estimating, I’ve been fairly adamant that story factors are about effort. I’ve additionally defined that we discuss that effort by way of how lengthy it would take to complete as a result of that’s 1) how we naturally take into consideration the trouble concerned to do a process and a pair of) how we are able to reply questions on when a undertaking will 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 foul thought. Don’t do it.

Equating hours to story factors obviates the first cause to make use of story factors within the first place: Story factors are useful as a result of they permit group members who carry out at completely 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 Important Cause to Use Story Factors.)

Agile Estimation Is Summary On Goal

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

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

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

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

This group of two has a mean 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 Famous person is 4 occasions extra productive than Junior, Famous person will be capable to full 4 occasions as many factors within the dash. Which means Famous person 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 Famous person with objects A, B, and C as proven beneath.


Gadgets Factors Famous person Junior
A 10 X  
B 5 X  
C 5 X  
D 5   X
Whole   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 doable solutions.

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

You may see from this instance that there is no such thing as a equivalence between factors and hours. You can’t say one level equals such-and-such variety of hours. For Famous person, a degree is 2 hours, for Junior it’s 8 hours, and for the group it’s 3.2 hours.

But when the group doesn’t take heed to me, they usually outline a degree as being equal to three.2 hours, Junior and Famous person will be unable to agree on estimates as a result of they produce such dramatically completely different ends in 3.2 hours.

With story factors, alternatively, everybody can discuss and estimate the work, and the estimate can be correct irrespective 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 just isn’t mounted on the identical quantity for all group members.

Equating Story Factors to Hours Complicates Considering

The second downside with equating story factors to a set variety of hours is that group members not suppose abstractly. If somebody instructs group 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.

While you attempt as a substitute to transform story factors to hours, you out of the blue provoke an hours-to-story-points calculator in each group member’s head. When advised to estimate the trouble required for a narrative with a particular time per level in thoughts, the group 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 may 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 not relative. Story level estimation turns into completely depending on who’s doing the work.

If somebody in your organization needs to start out translating story factors to hours, simply cease calling the items factors and use the label of hours or days as a substitute. Calling them factors after they’re actually simply hours introduces unnecessary complexity (and loses one of many principal advantages of factors: group members with completely different ability ranges have a typical 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 cause you could have tracked how lengthy each one-story-point story took to develop for a given group, and saved it in a story-points-to-hours desk. In the event you graphed that knowledge you’ll have one thing that will seem like 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 total 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 consumer tales. Graphing that knowledge as nicely, we’d 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, in fact. However a group that does a superb job of estimating can be sufficiently shut for dependable plans to be created from their estimates based mostly on their common group 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 seemingly that a number of the most time-consuming one-point backlog objects take longer than a number of the shortest two-point objects. In any case, no group can estimate with excellent perception, particularly on the story level stage.

So, whereas the tails of the one- and two-point distributions will overlap, it could 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 can 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.

It is a mistake, and makes factors irrelevant as a result of they merely change into a translation of hours. Mapping story factors to hours makes it inconceivable for group members who produce their work at completely different charges to agree on estimates. Groups that convert Jira story factors to hours by means of a hard and fast equivalence (corresponding 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 by means of a easy one level equals x hours formulation will end in 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 the way to interpret the story factors we inform them.

We are able to present that understanding utilizing velocity. Suppose stakeholders wish to know the way lengthy a 5-point backlog merchandise will take and that our group’s common velocity is 20. We are able to inform the stakeholders that the five-point merchandise is about one-fourth of the group’s complete capability for the dash.

Going Additional

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



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