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How to Calculate Story points in Agile?

One of the essential elements in a scrum board development used in agile project management and development is to estimate the time required for the completion of the task.  Estimating the time frame is a hard task, especially for the software developers. It needs to take into account a host of features, and implementing all of them may not be much easy enough. 

That is where Agile systems of project management use the concept of story points. It is a type of estimation used for project management in Agile. Before we can understand how to calculate story points in Agile, it may be essential to understand what exactly they are. 

Photo Credit: softwareplant.com

What is a Story Point?

A story point, by definition, is a metric used in the Agile Project Management for the difficulty in the implementation of a user story. It would act as a measure of the efforts needed for the implementation of a given user story. In most cases, it tends to be an abstract measure. 

In a traditional software development scenario, the estimates are handled in a quantifiable time format. It is generally measured in units such as weeks, hours, days, and months. However, in an Agile environment, the concept of story points is used. This ideally involves the use of numbers equivalent to Fibonacci numbers. 

That would not appear intuitive in many cases, but it is believed that the use of such a format can help the team take firmer decisions with respect to the difficulty of the work. 

Why Opt for Story Points in Agile?

Well, it is believed that the use Story Points concept brings in a host of advantages. Some of the reasons that services like Atlassian opt for story Points can be explained on the basis of the following benefits. 

  • There are a few factors in project management and development where the dates may not have the right compatibility. Some such elements would include emails, meetings, and similar factors that a team member may find himself in. 
  • The efficiency of each team may be different. Having a time-based estimation may not be able to provide the right scale of estimations. 
  • Dates are believed to have an emotional attachment. Story Points are abstract in nature and thus take away the unneeded emotional attachment. 
  • The concept of the story points is more focussed on the efforts put in, not on the time spent. That way, the team members will be focussed on the value of the projects than on the time spent on it. 

How to Calculate Story Points in Agile?

Well, before a team can begin estimating the story points, they need to find a baseline story. Once the baseline story has been found, the other stories can be compared against it. Finding the base story would need a lot of effort and calculations. 

Step 1 – Pick a base Story

This can involve the following steps. Please note that it may not be standard practice, and each organization may have its own standards. The general methodology would involve the following steps – 

  • Collect and list all the stories that need to be sized 
  • Put them in the order of preference. This is called sizing. Mark them up from the smallest to largest. 

This can be done by taking up the first two stories and comparing them. Decide which among them is more significant and place the bigger one above. Take the next one and decide its size relative to the other two. Repeat the procedure for all the stories. 

Step 2 – Create an Estimation

At the end of the process, all the stories will be in an order from the smallest to biggest. You can either label them in the linear scale or Fibonacci sequence. Most Agile systems prefer the Fibonacci sequence. The Fibonacci sequence reads like this – 1,2,3,5,8,13, 21, and so on. 

A few factors you need to consider when sizing the stories in the above step would include:

  • The amount of the efforts necessary to complete the task
  • The complexity of the story
  • Risk factors and uncertainties involved in the task
  • Total time or duration that may be expected.

How to assign Story Points?

Assigning the story points to each of the stories will involve a lot of options and methods. You need to have a meeting with all the stakeholders and decide on the right estimates. 

One of the best techniques used in how to calculate story points in agile is to use a concept called Planning Poker. It is a consensus-based estimation technique that helps you estimate the product backlogs. It can be used for a wide range of estimating units. Agile systems prefer it as a perfect option for estimating story points. 

The concept goes somewhat on the following lines: 

  • Each of the estimators will get a set of cards. 
  • All the estimators choose a story. 
  • They undertake a discussion on it, each of them offering their own views and opinions. 
  • Each of the estimators will then draw cards privately to indicate his or her estimate for the story point. 
  • Once all the estimators have made their choice, they reveal the cards. 

In case there is a consensus, the story point has been estimated, and the process repeats with the other story points. If the estimators do not have an agreement, they discuss between them to arrive at a consensus. 

Learn from the experience

This has been yet another excellent option for how to calculate story points in agile. Normally referred to as Retrospectives, the method involves going through the past estimates that the stakeholders have conducted the accuracy that they have been able to achieve. 

A few agile systems such a Jira Software let you track the story points, which makes it a little easier and simpler to re-calibrate and re-estimate. 

Those were a few options that you can use if you are wondering how to calculate story points in agile. In any case, it should be noticed that in any agile project management system, an estimation can only be achieved through practice. The more and more you get into it, the more proficient you will become. However, the tips and ideas we shared here should act as a guiding stone for you in how to calculate story points in agile. Rest is how you put it into practice.

About the author

Timmappa Kamat

Timmappa Kamat is interested in technology and allied subjects and loves sharing the knowledge through the tech-savvy websites as a freelancer. He has been involved in providing content for a host of technology-based sites on day to day topics in the tech arena. Fond of gadgets and gizmos, he loves working with different apps, tools and software and sharing the knowledge with the world at large.

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