June 16, 2020

Story Points - how to evaluate the task correctly

To achieve certain goals by the deadline and a productive work of the team, various methods of assessment and determination of terms are used in the work. Today we’ll talk about one of them - it’s called Story Points, one of the methods for task assessment.

What is a task assessment?

For starters, what is task assessment? Each team knows what it is and what it is for. Task assessment is an approximate time of its completion. Before starting a project, customers make an assessment of their work. Most often they prefer to use time as an evaluation unit. For example, task A will take 2 hours, task B will take 6 hours, etc. Task assessment is based on the amount of work, as well as the time taken to complete the previous one. But this method is not always suitable for the project, as it can lead to disagreements and misunderstandings between customers and developers for certain reasons.

Task assessment and commitment.

Evaluation of a task is simply an identification of the amount of time that will be spent on its implementation, but not an exact date for completing the work. The exact date is called a commitment. These concepts are very often confused. Commitments are schedules by which project management is determined. They are agreed with customers, and are also regulated by goals and evaluations. Why can this lead to disagreement? Very often, managers make mistakes, assign evaluation to developers as commitments. In this case, to be safe, the developer gives himself extra time, thereby overstating his assessment. For example, a task that was previously completed in 4 hours is planned to be completed in 10 hours. For managers, such an assessment seems

unreasonable, so they begin negotiations with developers and seek a compromise. The task will be completed in 6 hours, although in fact in 4, organizationally this does not make sense. Commitments put a lot of pressure on the decision of task assessment. But

the main problem here is that time is used as a unit of measure for evaluating work. You may incorrectly think that if a standard working day lasts 8 hours, then you can manage to complete one five-hour task and two one and a half hour tasks. As a result, developers and managers associate a time assessment with working time, which makes it possible to confuse

the assessment of a task and a commitment.

Story Points Method.

In order to avoid such disagreements, there is a method of analogous task assessment - Story Points. It is often used in development, but the difference is that it does not use time units. This allows not to confuse the assessment of tasks and commitments, because sometimes developers and managers do not understand each other. Misunderstandings can lead to failure to meet internal deadlines, spoiled relations between managers and developers, as well as problems in project management.

Story Points eliminates time as a unit of measure for task assessment, thereby eradicating the problems mentioned above. Instead of hours, points are used in task assessment. This method helps developers move away from trying to estimate the exact amount of time that the task will take, including in relation to other parts of the work.

What is the Story Points method itself?

Planning plays an important role in developing. The team must evaluate its strengths and compare them with the amount of time to take as many tasks

as possible for the sprint. The developer studies the task as part of his project and presents an integer value called Story Points. Everything is very logical here, complex tasks get big points, lighter tasks - small ones.

This helps the team correctly prioritize tasks. Task assessment can be carried out in the form of sizes, colors and even breeds of dogs, but the Fibonacci sequence is much more practical and understandable.

Fibonacci sequence.

A Fibonacci sequence is a sequence of numbers, where any single number is the sum of two previous numbers. In development, a part of the sequence is usually taken from 1 to 13: 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13. 21 or more can be used for large epics or user stories. How it works? If the assessment is between two numbers, then it can be rounded to the nearest available number. This helps to avoid overly accurate estimates. So, if three is assigned as the first assessment of a task, and the next task seems to be about twice as large, do not assign it

six. The Fibonacci sequence allows you to round your score to eight. Thus, you can control your estimates and deal with uncertainty without accepting unintentional obligations. It is much more convenient to evaluate things by relative sizes.

The explanation in practice.

Here is a real-life example to demonstrate how this concept works. For example, you want to estimate the size of a building. Trying to estimate its size by intuition, you assume that it is about 80 meters in height. Another method would be to compare this size with another building. Select the

smaller next to it and use it for scale. Thus, a taller building can be as three small ones.

What is the catch of the Story Points method?

Story Points is a great alternative to evaluating work by the number of hours, but like everywhere else, this method of evaluating tasks has its disadvantages. It is not suitable for everyone and is not the most common practice in the industry, even among Agile and Scrum software developers. Story Points can be tricky. Firstly, to implement this method, you need to strain your brains. Story Points is a rather confusing condition for task assessment for developers - to switch their thinking from time estimates to points. It often happens that developers involuntarily transform the predicted number of hours into the number of Story Points. The effectiveness of the Story Points method depends of course on the team. Using our company as an example, after some practice, the developers have learned and are used to using the Story Points method to make a correct task assessment.