Scrum Effort Points – What Are They and Their Importance in Story Point Meetings

Scrum Effort Points – What Are They and Their Importance in Story Point Meetings

Newton is the SI unit of force, the current is measured in amperes, and the temperature has three measurements; Fahrenheit, Celsius, and Kelvin. Don’t worry, we won’t teach you Physics today, but think about it, we have standard units to measure almost everything on this planet, so what about our efforts? Are our efforts measurable? If yes, what metrics do we use to measure our work?

We often use the time to measure the extent of our efforts. The more time we spend on something, the more effort we must have put into it. But time can not be taken as a standard since we might spend less time on some tasks, but who knows how demanding they might have been.

Fortunately, in the case of agile project management, we are blessed with scrum effort points. These points are a measure of the efforts required to complete a sprint.

Scrum is a methodology used in agile project management that focuses on improving efficiency and productivity. Instead of measuring effort in hours, Scrum uses story points to estimate the amount of effort required to implement the product backlog.

This post will give you a detailed overview of Scrum effort points and help you understand how important they are in story point meetings.

What Are Scrum Effort Points?

Scrum effort points are more commonly called story points. Story points measure efforts required to implement a product backlog or any other task. The number of story points tells a team about the task’s difficulty.

There are three essential factors based on which story points are allocated to different tasks:

  • Risk – uncertainty, and ambiguity
  • Complexity – the difficulty of developing a complex feature
  • Repetition – recurring tasks

Assigning story points to tasks helps teams understand the level of effort they will have to put in. It helps teams make better decisions for their work.

Why Measure Story Points Instead of Time?

why-measure-story-points-instead-of-time

You might question why we can’t just use the amount of time spent on a task to measure effort. Here are a few pointers that will help you understand why time is a faulty measuring unit when calculating effort.

  • The time we spend checking emails, inboxes, etc. is often not considered an effort. The effort, in this aspect, is totally invalidated.
  • Different teams and different individuals within different teams have different velocities. To generalize the time durations of different tasks would mean that you are discounting the efforts of one or the other.
  • In the case of story points, individuals are rewarded for their problem-solving capabilities and not the amount of time they spend on a certain task. Otherwise, individuals might spend hours on tasks with no output whatsoever.
  • Everyone’s time is not the same. Different individuals have different sets of capabilities, experiences, and skills which means that the amount of time each individual spends on a task may be different. This renders time an invalid standard of measurement of effort.

When we count time, it ultimately means that we are discounting other factors that may play a crucial role in the process. For example, time does not cater to complexities, uncertainties, risks, etc.

Before we move on to the next section of our article, we would like to make it clear that story points are not equated with time. The important thing is determining how many story points can be completed in a sprint and then calculating velocity. This helps teams predict their performance for the future and how quickly they will be able to accomplish a task.

Let us now take a look at how story points are actually measured.

Calculating Scrum Effort Points:

Following is a detailed guideline on how you can calculate story points for your project:

1. Fibonacci Sequence Numbers:

Fibonacci Sequence is a scale that helps assign a point value to different items in the backlog. Simply allotting integers to different tasks leaves a lot of gaps in understanding what each point indicates and how one point is different from the other.

The Fibonacci scale specifically addresses this uncertainty and is used to eliminate risks. The Fibonacci sequence is a series of numbers where every next number is a sum of the two previous ones. The sequence thus created is as follows:

0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, 89, ……

2. Develop a Matrix:

risk_matrix

Risk Matrix at nTask

Now that you have a scale for indicating different story points, you can develop a matrix. The matrix will help you determine what each point indicates or the minimal effort value assigned to each scrum effort point.

By assigning a baseline to story points, you essentially determine the effort each point ultimately indicates. The smallest number indicates an item with the least amount of risk and complexity and high repetition. Contrarily, the higher the number, the more complex, risky, and unique the work item is.

3. Planning Poker:

The planning poker method involves the input of all the team members. To calculate the story points using this method, all the team members are gathered together, and a backlog item is chosen for point estimation.

The whole team briefly discusses the item, and all team members come up with point estimations for the item. All induvial are handed cards with different numbers written on them. Once they have made a mental estimation of story points, they play the card that displays their estimate for the story points.

If all the team members have the same estimates, then great, but if there are differing opinions, the team can discuss the backlog item and arrive at a consensus.

Often a certain limit is imposed in terms of story points for an item. For example, if 12 is the upper limit, items with greater numbers should be split into two. Similarly, if the lower limit is 2, items with an estimated value of 1 or fewer points should be incorporated in other tasks.

Moving on to our last point of discussion i.e., the importance of scrum effort points in story point meetings.

Importance Of Story Points in Story Point Meetings:

scrum-importance

During spring planning, teams have to assign story points to each item in the product backlog. All the team members are gathered for story point meetings and the backlog items are discussed for allocation of story points.

The product owner first introduces the story to the team to accurately assign story points. After presenting the story, team members discuss the story in detail and gather as much information about it as possible. Team members gain clarity on the story, the risks involved, the level of complexity, and everything else.

Afterward, the discussion is summarized once again to explain everything that needs to be done for that particular item and make sure everyone understands the efforts it demands. All the team members are then asked to assign story points to the item and keep it to themselves until everyone is done.

Once everyone has an estimate, the team shares their estimate for the item. Individuals are welcome to explain and defend their number in case of differing opinions on the scrum effort point estimation. After the explanation, the team reaches a consensus and the number thus agreed upon becomes the story points for that user story.

The product owner and scrum master do not intervene in the discussion or participate in allocating points. The development team does all the discussion and ultimately the allocation of a specific scrum effort point.

The whole process shows that story points can only be calculated in the presence of the whole team. One cannot simply allow a number of his choice to any item. A consensus has to be reached to eliminate issues and improve the whole team’s efficiency.

It’s a Wrap!

So, this was everything you need to know about a scrum story point, its estimation, and its importance in story point meetings. We hope this post proves to be helpful for you when you have to assign story points to items in your backlog.

If there is anything that you would like to know more about or if you have any questions, reach out to us at fwilson@ntaskmanager.com and we will promptly get back to you.

Till then, goodbye!


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