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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 easy methods 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 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 once 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 motive 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 models of measure, whether or not you might be estimating with a set of playing cards, T-shirt sizing, or the Fibonacci collection. (For extra on why relative estimates are important, learn The Principal Motive to Use Story Factors.)

Agile Estimation Is Summary On Goal

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’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 ought to be price two factors. Or it’s 5 instances as a lot effort, and ought to be 5 factors.

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

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

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

Photos factors
A 10
B 5
C 5
D 5


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

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


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


So what will 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. 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 instances that of Celebrity. This corresponds to the preliminary assumption that Celebrity 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 possibly can see from this instance that there isn’t a equivalence between factors and hours. You can not say one level equals such-and-such variety of hours. For Celebrity, a degree 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, they usually outline a degree 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, alternatively, everybody can discuss and estimate the work, and the estimate will probably be correct irrespective of which developer works on the story. On this means, story factors are nonetheless about effort, however the period of time it takes to finish every level is just not fastened on the identical 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 not assume 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.

While you strive as an alternative to transform story factors to hours, you abruptly provoke an hours-to-story-points calculator in each staff member’s head. When advised 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 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 not relative. Story level estimation turns into solely 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 models factors and use the label of hours or days as an alternative. Calling them factors after they’re actually simply hours introduces pointless complexity (and loses one of many principal advantages of factors: staff members with totally different talent 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 motive you will have 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 may 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 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 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, in fact. However a staff that does job of estimating will probably be sufficiently shut for dependable plans to be constructed 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 way in which, discover that I’ve drawn the distributions of one- and two-point tales as having overlapping tails. It is vitally seemingly that among the most time-consuming one-point backlog gadgets take longer than among the shortest two-point gadgets. In spite of everything, no staff 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 will 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 would 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 turn into a translation of hours. Mapping story factors to hours makes it unimaginable for staff members who produce their work at totally different charges to agree on estimates. Groups that convert Jira story factors to hours by means of a set equivalence (resembling 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 gadgets take from x to y hours. And two-point backlog gadgets 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 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 easy methods to interpret the story factors we inform them.

We will present that understanding utilizing velocity. Suppose stakeholders need 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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