What is story point estimation?

Posted on June 29th, 2009 in Agile by siddharta || 13 Comments

This post is the first in a series of two posts. In this post, I’ll explain what story point estimation is about. In the next post, we’ll see why Agile teams prefer story point estimation over the traditional method of estimating in hours.

What are story points?

In simple terms, a story point is a measure of complexity. This is to differentiate it with hourly estimates, which are a measure of effort.

The second idea is that story points are a relative measure. That means we choose one user story and keep it as the reference and assign it a value of 1 point. We then measure every other story relative to this one. So if the second story is twice as complex, we give it a value of 2 points. Thrice as complex and it gets 3 points and so on. Go through the entire backlog this way.

Thats all there is to it!

The difference between complexity and effort
Lets take an example to highlight the difference between complexity and effort.

Assume I have a rock that weighs 10 Kg. This weight is a property of the rock itself. Now if I ask how long will it take to carry the rock over 100 meters. This depends on many factors: The weight of the rock, who is going to carry the rock, how strong they are, how fast they are and so on. The answer to the second question depends both on the rock, and the person doing the carrying.

In a similar way, complexity is a property of the story, whereas effort depends both on the story as well as the person implementing it.

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  5. Charlie Says:

    Hey there, has anyone heard of a “function point” – this method of taking a process – be it human or computerized – and assigning weights to its value added has been around for over three decades.
    Calling them story points is a coincidental nomenclature which makes me certain that the entity who coined the phrase story point was certainly sure of what function points were.
    Now, technology and methods may be different than they were back then. We certainly did not have stories, object orientation, scripting, etc. etc. but we certainly could assign relative complexity of functions, and we did.

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