How abstract really are story points?

Refinement meetings (or grooming meetings, as you prefer it) are my favorite AGILE ceremonies. The moment when, after a creative and smart discussion, all team agrees in one estimation, each team member selects individually one card! And then we try to understand discrepancies between values, why one person voted too high, other too low… this is an amazing moment where so much can be observed: who leads, who knows, who loves risk, who is more cautious, who influences, who will implement it 🙂

Refinement meetings are where the complete Agile Team discuss the story in the most constructive and detailed way:

  1. First the Product owner presents the story, what he wants, why he wants, how he imagined the feature, which value will come to the user or to the product…
  2. After, all team breaks the story in small complexity or implementation parts, digest each part, and thinks how it can be implemented in the smartest way.

This moment reflects 100% AGILE values, it’s a creative and analytic moment, it can be also an important moment for architectural discussions. But this refinement moment will end up with a single output: the story estimation in Story Points.

My Story Point definition

Googling you can find many story points definitions, my own definition is:
– It is a Team metric, it will become more accurate during the Team maturing process. As better the team members know and trust each other, as better defined will be the limits and meanings of each value. They will choose with which cards they will play or don’t.
Every time we add a new team member, he will be initially “confused” with the scale used by the pre-formed team. After 2-3 ceremonies he will start understanding concepts as underestimated or overestimated stories accordingly with the team informal scale.

But which variables are estimated through Story Points?

Several! The estimation will consider an abstract combination of several variables like:

  • Complexity,
  • Type of story (UX, back-end, front end, etc.);
  • Who will implement it;
  • How innovative or how repetitive is the story compared with other implemented stories in the past;
  • Is the team experienced with this technology?
  • This story doesn’t have dependencies outside the team capacity?

One refinement meeting after another will bring an amazing rhythm and compass 🙂 into the refinement process! All team selecting through the same range of cards.
In my opinion, as more experienced is the team refining less abstract will be their story points scale. The team will pass through a progressive process to find a logical and accurate story points scale based on their self-knowledge (e.g. skills, efficiency, capacity, etc).

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