Facilitating the Spread of Knowledge and Innovation in Professional Software Development

Write for InfoQ


Choose your language

InfoQ Homepage News That's How You're Using Story Points? No Way.

That's How You're Using Story Points? No Way.

Leia em Português

This item in japanese

Do all agile teams understand how story points work?  Apparently not.  A recent post from Mike Cohn of Mountain Goat Software reiterated that estimating features with story points is about gauging relative effort, not about ranking features in order of their complexity.

To illustrate the difference between ordinal ranking and relative effort Mike used the example of buying a car. A team using ordinal ranking would list the cars from least expensive to most expensive assigning one additional point per car so that a Tata Nano would be one point and a Bugatti would be 10 points. The example illustrates how using story points to rank a product backlog will lead to a misunderstanding in terms of cost; the Bugatti being nearly 960 times the cost of the Nano.  

But why did this come up?  Were there agile teams out there who truly didn't understand that estimation of features with story points was about gauging effort, cost...not ranking features?  That's exaclty what Thomas V asked: 

I have to ask: what prompted you to write this post? Are there really people doing this? 

And Mike Cohn confirmed.  Yep, folks are apparently doing this: 

Hi Thomas- Yes, oddly people are doing this. The prompt was an email on Saturday from someone I respect who told me he does this. I was quite surprised. I can’t see a single reason to rank product backlog items in this way, but yes it is done. 

Turning it over to our readers; have you seen teams misusing the story point estimation technique?  Have you experienced teams using story points to rank...rather than estimate a backlog of features? 

Rate this Article