Story of Story Points

"Let's use Story Points


We are following agile now

Yayy.. story points!

How many hours these epics, stories will take?

But we are using story points..

Yeah, but we still need to plan. Hours are better for that. 1 SP - 5 hours. ok?"

Heard this story of story points many times.


It is important to understand why do we need Story Points? Is it mandatory for being agile? Are hours prohibited?

The key motive for story points or hours is that we need to estimate the work, so we can tell what can be achieved in given time. Hence, we try to estimate. Hours are used since long because time is easy measure for us, and we can quantify easily, 'accurately'.

However, it become challenging when we found that even after best try, it is hard to estimate the time. It is more and more true in non-mechanical activities, where outcome depends on many intangible factors like skills, information available, mood, motivation, environment and so on.

If estimates can not be done accurately, then why to estimate. Let us just keep working and ship whatever is done. And this is also one of the philosophy and may work in specific setup. However, most still need a roadmap with understanding of possibilities which feed into overall plan of business.

'Possibility' is the key word here. We gradually understood that accurate estimate is not semantically and practically right. However, we can try to have best guess based on available information, which reflects the possibilities. As long as, we accept this fact, that we are talking about possibilities, hours or story points or tshirt size or anything else works.

If we consider this, ultimately, it boils down to 'common understanding'. Common understanding that when we are estimating, we are talking about possibility. If we all are good with this, any unit can be used for estimation.

Building up on this understanding, let us talk about common understanding. How easy or difficult is it to have common understanding with many people of different skills set, experiences, background, motives, different stakes and responsibilities. There are so many psychological factors, which makes it difficult to have this common understanding, more so if unit of measurement (hours) is traditionally used for accurate outcome. As soon as, we say x hours, it triggers a mental understanding of accurate number and then we want to see that getting materialized. People usually understand that estimates are just estimates. But as soon as we attach it with Hours kind of definitive measure, it build up expectations of accuracy. This is the key challenge to address.