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Estimation in Story Points Compared to Hours

Agile estimation is an important part of the planning process in an Agile project. Well, thought out estimates help product owners to manage time schedules better, maximizing efficiency and product value. Agile estimation is a collective effort, and the entire team takes part in the process. In this article, we will talk about estimation using story points. You will learn how it’s done, what are the challenges you might face with time estimates and with story points, and why story points are considered to work well as compared to estimates using man hours. Let us start by understanding the basics: what is a story point?What is a Story Point and its role in Scrum? In traditional projects, time estimates are usually calculated in terms of days, weeks, or months. If you have worked on an Agile project, you are more than likely to be familiar with the term ‘Story Points’. Agile and Scrum teams prefer to use story points as a measure of calculating the effort (not the time itself, as such) involved to fully implement a particular piece of work. Mike Cohn, Agile expert and founding member of the Agile Alliance and Scrum Alliance, defines story points as ‘estimates of effort as influenced by the amount of work, complexity, risk and uncertainty’. Using story points, we can measure the effort required to fully complete a Product Backlog item—and based on this, the time schedules for a sprint or for a product release can be fully worked out.How to use Story Points to estimate the projectStory points are assigned based on the complexity of the work involved, the amount of work needed, and the risk involved in implementing that feature or user story. A team that has worked together earlier will be in a better position to judge how much they can achieve in a particular duration, but even new teams will get the hang of the estimation process pretty quickly. When calculating the story point, the estimate is based on three things: The amount of work How complex the work is? The amount of risk involved When estimating the story points, a point value is given to each item. What is important is the relative values assigned to two items, for instance assume that item 1 is assigned 2 points. It should have twice the effort involved (in terms of complexity, risk or quantity of work) as a story which is assigned one point. This is an abstract estimate that could be hard to comprehend at first.  Story point estimation is done by the entire team as part of the Backlog grooming session. Story Points and Planning PokerEvery user story is assigned a point value for estimation, which is, as we have seen, called the story point. To begin with, the team must find a baseline story to use as a reference. It could be a simple story, and one that everyone on the team is familiar with. Let’s assume that this story is assigned a value of 1 story point.The next story that is picked up with be compared to this baseline story. If the team feels that it requires twice the effort, then it can be given the story point value of 2. No story point should be greater than 21, and if this value is reached then the user story should be split again. It is generally considered that 8 should be the highest value assigned, and most teams like to stick to this rule for ease of working.Many teams use a simple exercise called Planning Poker to assign and to come into concurrence on the story points. This is a technique that builds consensus and uses a set of Planning Poker cards with values printed on the back; usually 0, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 20, 40 and 100. These will represent the number of story points and are dealt to all the team members. One person will describe the user story and will discuss it in detail with the Product Owner so that the team members get clarity on what exactly it entails. Once it is discussed fully, each team member selects one card that indicates his or her own personal estimate.  All the cards are revealed, and the team then discusses the values on the cards and arrives at an agreement. The highest and lowest values may be discussed, to find out the reason behind such an estimate, and there may be one or several more rounds of card selection after this.  This process of selection and discussion is repeated till a consensus is arrived at. Challenges with time estimationsThe traditional and most common approach to measuring teamwork is by using man hours or calculating in terms of days or weeks. This is an easily measured metric but comes with many drawbacks. It is not always possible to estimate some tasks with precision, as they may not be defined well or could have dependencies. If one developer starts a task and someone else finishes it, the estimate is not valid as each developer will take a different time for completion, based on his or her experience and expertise level. Obstacles are not factored into the time estimate. Team members tend to over commit, based on the best-case scenarios. Challenges with Story PointsWhile story points might seem a plausible alternative to using time estimates, they are not without their own associated challenges. Many people don’t understand them, as they represent an abstract value. There are team members who like the definitions of estimates to be more precise and tangible. Story points simply aren’t that. Team velocity and story points cannot be compared against similar values mapped out by a different team, as they are relative metrics. Managers who do not really get what an agile metric is, could end up comparing the velocity of different teams, or not following the whole purpose behind story points. They could be misused, since they are so frequently misunderstood.  Story points lay focus on the wrong things, and can inculcate bad habits. When teams are asked to benchmark their numbers and output, they might rush through the work— marking tasks as done even when they are not completely finished. This reduces the quality of work and increases technical debt. Story point estimation is a very tedious process and takes away from the fun of working on an Agile project. Teams that find that story points do not work for them can use other measures of calculating throughput and scheduling sprints. They can use time estimates in hours, or even work with high-level estimates only or no estimates at all. Each to his or her own! How are Story Points considered to be better than Hours in 2021?Story points offer several significant advantages over hours. High-level estimates are simplified: Story points are the easiest metric to use when performing initial rough estimates. At the earliest stage, precise requirements may not be available. At least on a high level we can easily understand and estimate the scope of work using story points, without getting into minute details. Different skill levels and experience across the team will not matter: In many a case, the estimator of a task may be different from the implementer. Their skills and experience may be quite different, and they will take different number of hours to finish the task. When using story points, this problem does not arise as a story point is a relative value. The whole team works together to get an idea of the story size, complexity and risks involved, and it does not depend on who is implementing the story. Ability to track velocity: The velocity of a team is calculated as the amount of product backlog effort that is completed in one sprint. Teams with a higher velocity are more efficient and can make progress quickly. When the velocity is calculated using story points, since both are relative values, you will not need to re-estimate the project when the velocity changes. Teams that calculate effort in man hours will have to recalculate the velocity, as hours are not relative. Story points allow greater flexibility:Quite often, the team members might have to move to a different project in the interim. Using story points, product release deadlines can be re-planned easily, without the need to re-estimate each and every task if team members change during the progress of the project. Ready to get started? As is the case with anything in Agile, the art of estimation using story points is something that will get better with practice. Once you have worked on a few Agile projects, you will be able to assign accurate story point values very easily. As the project progresses, the team can learn from the accuracy of their own past estimates and incorporate insights from the completed iterations into the estimation for the next sprint.  

Estimation in Story Points Compared to Hours

7K
Estimation in Story Points Compared to Hours

Agile estimation is an important part of the planning process in an Agile project. Well, thought out estimates help product owners to manage time schedules better, maximizing efficiency and product value. Agile estimation is a collective effort, and the entire team takes part in the process. 

In this article, we will talk about estimation using story points. You will learn how it’s done, what are the challenges you might face with time estimates and with story points, and why story points are considered to work well as compared to estimates using man hours. 

Let us start by understanding the basics: what is a story point?

What is a Story Point and its role in Scrum? 

In traditional projects, time estimates are usually calculated in terms of days, weeks, or months. If you have worked on an Agile project, you are more than likely to be familiar with the term ‘Story Points’. Agile and Scrum teams prefer to use story points as a measure of calculating the effort (not the time itself, as such) involved to fully implement a particular piece of work. 

Mike Cohn, Agile expert and founding member of the Agile Alliance and Scrum Alliance, defines story points as ‘estimates of effort as influenced by the amount of work, complexity, risk and uncertainty’. 

Using story points, we can measure the effort required to fully complete a Product Backlog item—and based on this, the time schedules for a sprint or for a product release can be fully worked out.

How to use Story Points to estimate the projectStory Points in Agile

Story points are assigned based on the complexity of the work involved, the amount of work needed, and the risk involved in implementing that feature or user story. A team that has worked together earlier will be in a better position to judge how much they can achieve in a particular duration, but even new teams will get the hang of the estimation process pretty quickly. 

When calculating the story point, the estimate is based on three things: 

  1. The amount of work 
  2. How complex the work is? 
  3. The amount of risk involved 

When estimating the story points, a point value is given to each item. What is important is the relative values assigned to two items, for instance assume that item 1 is assigned 2 points. It should have twice the effort involved (in terms of complexity, risk or quantity of work) as a story which is assigned one point. This is an abstract estimate that could be hard to comprehend at first.  

Story point estimation is done by the entire team as part of the Backlog grooming session. 

Story Points and Planning Poker

Every user story is assigned a point value for estimation, which is, as we have seen, called the story point. To begin with, the team must find a baseline story to use as a reference. It could be a simple story, and one that everyone on the team is familiar with. Let’s assume that this story is assigned a value of 1 story point.

The next story that is picked up with be compared to this baseline story. If the team feels that it requires twice the effort, then it can be given the story point value of 2. No story point should be greater than 21, and if this value is reached then the user story should be split again. It is generally considered that 8 should be the highest value assigned, and most teams like to stick to this rule for ease of working.

Story Points In Agile

Many teams use a simple exercise called Planning Poker to assign and to come into concurrence on the story points. This is a technique that builds consensus and uses a set of Planning Poker cards with values printed on the back; usually 0, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 20, 40 and 100. These will represent the number of story points and are dealt to all the team members. 

One person will describe the user story and will discuss it in detail with the Product Owner so that the team members get clarity on what exactly it entails. Once it is discussed fully, each team member selects one card that indicates his or her own personal estimate.  

All the cards are revealed, and the team then discusses the values on the cards and arrives at an agreement. The highest and lowest values may be discussed, to find out the reason behind such an estimate, and there may be one or several more rounds of card selection after this.  

This process of selection and discussion is repeated till a consensus is arrived at. 

Planning Poker

Challenges with time estimations

The traditional and most common approach to measuring teamwork is by using man hours or calculating in terms of days or weeks. This is an easily measured metric but comes with many drawbacks. 

  • It is not always possible to estimate some tasks with precision, as they may not be defined well or could have dependencies. 
  • If one developer starts a task and someone else finishes it, the estimate is not valid as each developer will take a different time for completion, based on his or her experience and expertise level. 
  • Obstacles are not factored into the time estimate. 
  • Team members tend to over commit, based on the best-case scenarios. 

Challenges with Story Points

While story points might seem a plausible alternative to using time estimates, they are not without their own associated challenges. 

  • Many people don’t understand them, as they represent an abstract value. There are team members who like the definitions of estimates to be more precise and tangible. Story points simply aren’t that. 
  • Team velocity and story points cannot be compared against similar values mapped out by a different team, as they are relative metrics. Managers who do not really get what an agile metric is, could end up comparing the velocity of different teams, or not following the whole purpose behind story points. They could be misused, since they are so frequently misunderstood.  
  • Story points lay focus on the wrong things, and can inculcate bad habits. When teams are asked to benchmark their numbers and output, they might rush through the work— marking tasks as done even when they are not completely finished. This reduces the quality of work and increases technical debt. 
  • Story point estimation is a very tedious process and takes away from the fun of working on an Agile project. 

Teams that find that story points do not work for them can use other measures of calculating throughput and scheduling sprints. They can use time estimates in hours, or even work with high-level estimates only or no estimates at all. Each to his or her own! 

How are Story Points considered to be better than Hours in 2021?

Story points offer several significant advantages over hours. 

  • High-level estimates are simplified: 

Story points are the easiest metric to use when performing initial rough estimates. At the earliest stage, precise requirements may not be available. At least on a high level we can easily understand and estimate the scope of work using story points, without getting into minute details. 

  • Different skill levels and experience across the team will not matter: 

In many a case, the estimator of a task may be different from the implementer. Their skills and experience may be quite different, and they will take different number of hours to finish the task. When using story points, this problem does not arise as a story point is a relative value. The whole team works together to get an idea of the story size, complexity and risks involved, and it does not depend on who is implementing the story. 

  • Ability to track velocity: 

The velocity of a team is calculated as the amount of product backlog effort that is completed in one sprint. Teams with a higher velocity are more efficient and can make progress quickly. When the velocity is calculated using story points, since both are relative values, you will not need to re-estimate the project when the velocity changes. Teams that calculate effort in man hours will have to recalculate the velocity, as hours are not relative. 

  • Story points allow greater flexibility:

Quite often, the team members might have to move to a different project in the interim. Using story points, product release deadlines can be re-planned easily, without the need to re-estimate each and every task if team members change during the progress of the project. 

Ready to get started? 

As is the case with anything in Agile, the art of estimation using story points is something that will get better with practice. Once you have worked on a few Agile projects, you will be able to assign accurate story point values very easily. As the project progresses, the team can learn from the accuracy of their own past estimates and incorporate insights from the completed iterations into the estimation for the next sprint.  

KnowledgeHut

KnowledgeHut

Author

KnowledgeHut is an outcome-focused global ed-tech company. We help organizations and professionals unlock excellence through skills development. We offer training solutions under the people and process, data science, full-stack development, cybersecurity, future technologies and digital transformation verticals.
Website : https://www.knowledgehut.com

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In this decade where traditional methods for Project Development are on the verge of being obsolete, organisations are in dire need of Agile. Call for Agile experts has expanded in the IT business and is spreading to multiple areas of businesses also. This request triggers the requirement for certifications which enlisting organisations can manage an account with.These certifications range from the entry level to the advanced levels and are benefiting the software professionals in more ways than one. In the recent times, there has also been a need to upgrade Agile practices in organisations, and this, exactly, has given rise to the demand for scaled Agile. This has spurred the software professionals to take up Leading SAFe® certifications to enhance their career.This article will discuss the top Leading SAFe® 4.5 certifications and their career benefits.Benefits of the certificationGenerally speaking, certification will help you to get the following benefits-Better foresightBetter salaryBetter integrityKeeping pace with the current market approachTop 6 SAFe® 4.5 certifications1. Leading SAFe® 4.5 training (SAFe® Agilist)SAFe® Agilist(SA) certification will help you to empower your organisation’s success. SA certification will allow you not only to execute and deliver value through Agile Release Trains but also to lead a Lean-Agile transformation in scaled organisations. This certification will also let you build a continuous delivery pipeline even in a DevOps culture. Also, the course exhibits the power of coordinating with the larger solutions and promoting a Lean portfolio culture within the enterprise.Learning Objectives:As a SAFe® Agilist (SA), you should be able to-Exhibit how the combination of Lean, Agile, and Product Development shapes the SAFe® foundation.Apply SAFe® principles to scale Lean and Agile development in the organizationFind out and apply a Lean-Agile Mindset and principles accordinglyConsistently discover, incorporate, deploy, and deliver valueEngage with a Lean portfolioHarmonising for the development of the larger solutionsImprove Lean-Agile leadership skillsBolster a Lean-Agile transfiguration in the enterpriseFinish the SA training and lead to the certification exam What will attendees get? 2-Day Instructor-Led Classroom Training16 PDUs and 16 SEUsCourseware authored by Scaled Agile, Inc One year membership with Scaled AgileFree downloadable reference materials from Scaled Agile FrameworkThe course is for:Executives and Leaders, Managers, Directors, CIOs, and VPsDevelopment, QA, and Infrastructure ManagementProgram and Project ManagersProduct and Product Line ManagementPortfolio Managers, PMO, and Process LeadsEnterprise, System, and Solution ArchitectsPrerequisites:The course is free for the desired attendees. But, following prerequisites are needed to attend the SAFe® Agilist (SA) exam-5+ years’ experience in software development, testing, business analysis, product, or project managementExperience in ScrumExam Details:Time-span: Candidates have 90 minutes (1.5 hours), commencement of the examNumber of Questions: 45Passing Score: 34 out of 45 (76% passing score)Certification:On clearing the certification exam, the candidates will receive-SAFe® 4.5 Agilist certificate1-year membership with the SAFe® Community Platform, which includes access to the SA Community of PracticeA variety of learning resources to support you during your SAFe® journey2. SAFe 4.5 for teams (SP)Today, SAFe® 4.5 certified practitioners are in huge demand for their ability to scale the Agile methodology within the enterprise. This course makes the team aware of the Scrum principles, Lean thinking tools, roles, and processes. New teams or Scrum teams seeking for the Agile adoption and scaling within the organization, will find this course much helpful. Learning Objectives:As a SAFe® Practitioner (SP), you should be able to-Demonstrate SAFe® Agile principles to the teamManage Agile teams on Agile Release TrainPlan sprint iterationsImplement iterations and deliver valueDevelop your teamCoordinate with other teams on the trainWhat will attendees get?16 PDUs and 16 SEUsFreely downloadable e-book100 Days’ Free Access to Agile and Scrum e-training The course is for:Team members who want to apply Lean and Agile principlesAll team members of an Agile Release Train (ART) preparing for the launchPrerequisites:The course is free for all attendees. But, following prerequisites are needed to attend the SAFe® Practitioner (SP) exam-Familiar with Agile principlesAware of Scrum, Kanban, and XPExperience in software and hardware development processesExam Details:Time-span: Candidates have 90 minutes (1.5 hours), once the exam has commencedNumber of Questions: 45Passing Score: 35 out of 45 (78% passing score)Certification:On clearing the certification exam, the candidates will receive-SAFe® 4.5 Practitioner (SP) certificate3. SAFe 4.5 Product Owner/Product Manager (POPM)The SAFe® 4.5 POPM certification is intended to make Product Owners/Product Managers aware of the SAFe® principles, Lean-Agile tools, Agile development practices and SAFe® framework. Learning Objectives:As a SAFe® 4.5 (POPM), you should be able to-Implement SAFe® practices in the Lean enterpriseAttach SAFe® Lean-Agile principles and values to the PO/PM rolesCombine with Lean Portfolio ManagementImplement the Program Increment and deliver continuous valueCreate a PM/PM’s role action planWhat will attendees get? Training from a certified industry expertDownloadable courseware16 PDUs from PMI ® (PMI-ACP® / PMP® recertification)15 SEUs for CSPAttendee workbookMake you ready to attend the SAFe® 4 Product Owner/Product Manager (POPM) examOne-year membership to the SAFe® Community PlatformCourse completion certificateThe course is for:Product Managers, Product Line Managers, Product Owners, Business Owners, and Business AnalystsSolution Managers, Portfolio Managers, Program Managers, PMO personnel, and Process LeadsEnterprise, Solution, and System ArchitectsPrerequisites:The course is free to the desired attendees. But, following prerequisites are needed to attend the SAFe® 4.5 POPM exam.Leading SAFe® course attendeesWorking experience in the SAFe® environmentExperience with Lean, Agile, or other relevant methodsExam Details:Time-span: Candidates have 90 minutes (1.5 hours), once the exam has commencedNumber of Questions: 45Passing Score: 35 out of 45 (78% passing score)Certification:On clearing the certification exam, the candidates will receive-SAFe® 4.5 Product Owner/Product Manager (POPM) certificate4. SAFe® 4.5 Advanced Scrum Master (SASM) courseThe SAFe® 4.5 Advanced Scrum Master (SASM) certification equips the candidates with the skills that can be applied to lead high-performance Agile teams. Also, candidates will learn to apply DevOps practices and Kanban techniques and managing the interactions between the teams, stakeholders, and the Product Managers.Learning Objectives: As an SASM certified professional, you should be able to-Apply SAFe® principles in a multi-team environmentBuild a high-performing team and enable continuous improvementUnderstand Agile and Scrum anti-patternsFacilitate program planning, implementation, and value deliverySupport learning through participation in Communities of Practice and innovation cyclesWhat will attendees get? 16 PDUs and 16 SEUsFreely downloadable e-bookCourse completion certificateAttendee workbookOne-year membership to the SAFe® Community PlatformThe course is for:Existing Scrum MastersTeam leaders, project managers, and an Agile Team facilitator in a SAFe®Agile coachesEngineering and development managers executing AgileAgile Program ManagersProspective SAFe® Release Train EngineersPrerequisites:The course is free for the attendees. But, having at least one or more of the following certifications is recommended to attend the SAFe® 4.5 ASM exam-SAFe® 4 Scrum Master (SSM) certificationCertified Scrum Master (CSM) certificationProfessional Scrum Master (PSM) certificationExam Details:Time-span: Candidates have 120 minutes, once the exam has commencedNumber of Questions: 60Passing Score: 42 out of 60 (70% passing score)Certification:On clearing the certification exam, the candidates will receive-SAFe® 4.5 Advanced Scrum Master (SASM) certificate5. SAFe® 4.5 Scrum Master with SSM certification trainingSAFe® 4.5 Scrum Master(SSM) certification will make you well-versed with the main components of the Scaled Agile Framework and allow you to lead high-performing Agile teams. This course will help you to improve quality of the products reducing time-to-market.Learning Objectives:As a SAFe® 4.5 Scrum Master with SSM certification training, you should be able to-Discuss Scrum practices in a SAFe® implementing enterpriseFacilitate Scrum eventsFacilitate effective Iteration executionAssist DevOps implementationSupport effective Program Increment executionSupport continuous improvementTrain Agile teams to maximize business resultsAssist DevOps implementationWhat will attendees get?Prepare and support to clear the exam16 PDUs and 16 SEUs (under the category C)Course completion certificateThe course is for:New Scrum MastersPresent Scrum Masters, who wish to assume new roles in the SAFe® enterpriseTeam Leads who want to understand the Scrum Master roleSAFe® Release Train Engineers (RTEs) who want to coach for the role of the Scrum MastersPrerequisites:The course is free for the attendees. But, following prerequisites are a must to take the SAFe® 4.5 SSM exam-Familiarity with Agile principlesShould be aware of Scrum, Kanban, and eXtreme Programming (XP)Work experience in software and hardware development processesExam Details:Time-span: Candidates have 90 minutes (1.5 hours), once the exam has commencedNumber of Questions: 45Passing Score: 33 out of 45 (73% passing score)Certification:On clearing the certification exam, the candidates will receive-SAFe® 4.5 Scrum Master (SSM) certificate6. SAFe® 4.5 Release Train Engineer (RTE) certification courseSAFe® 4.5 RTE course will educate you on building the high-performing ART and understanding the role of  the RTE in a Lean-Agile transformation. Also, the attendees will learn to mentor the Agile leaders, teams and the Scrum Masters and how to prepare, plan and execute a Program Increment (PI).Learning Objectives: As a SAFe® 4.5 Scrum Master with SSM certification training, you should be able to-Apply Lean-Agile principles and tools to execute and deliver valueFostering continuous improvementConstruct a high-performing ART as a servant leader and coachPreparing an action plan to continue the learning journeyWhat will attendees get? Preparation and support for the SAFe® 4.5 Release Train Engineer (RTE) examCourse completion certificateOne-year membership to the SAFe® Community PlatformThe course is for:RTEs and Solution Train Engineers (STEs)Program and project managersScrum MastersLeaders and managersAgile coachesSAFe® Program Consultants (SPCs)Prerequisites:Following are the prerequisites required to attend the exam-Should have at least one current SAFe® certificationHave launched or participated in at least one ART and one PIExam Details:Time-span: Candidates have 120 minutes to complete the examNumber of Questions: 60Passing Score: 40 out of 45 (67% passing score)Each retake attempt costs $250Certification:On clearing the certification exam, the candidates will receive-SAFe® 4.5 RTE certificateNote:For all the courses, the registration fee includes the first exam attempt if the exam is taken within 30 days of course completion. Each retake attempt costs $50.After any of these SAFe® 4.5 certifications, you will get a Digital badge to promote your accomplishment online.Summing It UpToday, the SAFe® 4.5 certification is considered as a standard for Lean-Agile endeavours. Over 70% of the US Fortune 100 companies are utilising SAFe and the call for the SAFe® certified experts is rising at an exponential rate. The competitors that are searching for the more prominent vocation ahead, can go for the Leading SAFe® 4.5 certifications, as many employers seek candidates with credentials that convey their capability to work inside a SAFe® environment (verified through a SAFe® certification).
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Is SAFe® 4.5 Certification Worth The Price?

In this decade where traditional methods for Proje... Read More