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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 learn 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, 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 is going to take to complete as a result of that’s 1) how we naturally take into consideration the hassle concerned to do a job and a pair of) how we are able to reply questions on when a challenge might 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 staff 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 collection. (For extra on why relative estimates are important, learn The Predominant Purpose to Use Story Factors.)

Agile Estimation Is Summary On Objective

By utilizing story factors, agile groups with builders who work at totally different speeds can agree on estimates. A senior developer may have the ability 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 have a look at one other story and agree that it’s going to take twice as a lot effort, so it must be value two factors. Or it’s 5 instances as a lot effort, and must be 5 factors.

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

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

This staff 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.

Photographs factors
A 10
B 5
C 5
D 5


As a result of Famous person is 4 instances extra productive than Junior, Famous person will have the ability to full 4 instances as many factors within the dash. Meaning 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 throughout the dash. Let’s assume Junior chooses merchandise D. That leaves Famous person with objects A, B, and C as proven under.


Gadgets Factors Famous person 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 potential 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. Word that Junior’s variety of hours per level is 4 instances that of Famous person. This corresponds to the preliminary assumption that Famous person is 4 instances 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 isn’t any equivalence between factors and hours. You can not say one level equals such-and-such variety of hours. For Famous person, some extent is 2 hours, for Junior it’s 8 hours, and for the staff it’s 3.2 hours.

But when the staff doesn’t take heed to me, and so they outline some extent as being equal to three.2 hours, Junior and Famous person won’t be able 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 discuss and estimate the work, and the estimate shall 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 fastened on the similar quantity for all staff members.

Equating Story Factors to Hours Complicates Considering

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

If you strive as a substitute to transform story factors to hours, you immediately provoke an hours-to-story-points calculator in each staff member’s head. When informed to estimate the hassle required for a narrative with a particular time per level in thoughts, the staff 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 might 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 now not relative. Story level estimation turns into completely depending on who’s doing the work.

If somebody in your organization desires to begin 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 once they’re actually simply hours introduces pointless complexity (and loses one of many important advantages of factors: staff 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 have got tracked how lengthy each one-story-point story took to develop for a given staff, and saved it in a story-points-to-hours desk. For those who graphed that knowledge you’ll have one thing that will appear 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 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 consumer tales. Graphing that knowledge as properly, 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, after all. However a staff that does a superb job of estimating shall be sufficiently shut for dependable plans to be created from their estimates based mostly on their common staff 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 extremely seemingly that a few of the most time-consuming one-point backlog objects take longer than a few of the shortest two-point objects. In spite of everything, no staff can estimate with excellent perception, particularly on the story level degree.

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 might 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 change into a translation of hours. Mapping story factors to hours makes it inconceivable for staff members who produce their work at totally different charges to agree on estimates. Groups that convert Jira story factors to hours by a hard and fast equivalence (comparable 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 a easy one level equals x hours method will lead to deceptive solutions which can be 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 learn how to interpret the story factors we inform them.

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