Documents some techniques you can use to estimating in Story Points using Affinity Estimating.
Written in 2016-2017:
This is part of a series of articles that I originally wrote in 2016-2017 and were only published on private internal company wikis. I am publishing them publicly for the first time in 2019, here on my blog.
Written for Microsoft’s VSTS:
Some content is written for Microsoft’s Visual Studio Team Services (VSTS), as it existed in 2016-2017. VSTS was renamed to Azure DevOps in 2018 (WikiPedia).
- Affinity Estimating in Agile PM book – Chapter 8: Planning Releases and Sprints > Refining Requirements and Estimates > Affinity Estimating, location 3640.
- Estimation Poker in Agile PM book – Chapter 8: Planning Releases and Sprints > Refining Requirements and Estimates > Estimation Poker, location 3640.
- Gaining consensus with the Fist of Five in Agile PM book – Chapter 6 Putting Agile into Action: The Behaviors > Establishing Agile Roles > Gaining consensus: The Fist of Five, location 2573.
- Estimation Poker or Planning Poker Tips
- Sample Story Pointing Scales in Sprint Planning – Requirements & Tips.
- Fibonacci sequence
- JIRA Agile Tip: How To Print Story Cards for Scrum activities
Real Examples of How Fast Affinity Estimating Is:
|Work Items Estimated Per Minute||Average Estimated Per Hour||Total Work Items||Total Hours to Complete||Number of Teams||Team Types|
Comparison to Estimation Poker:
Estimation Poker can make 5-10 minutes PER work item. Here’s an example of how long it could take:
|Minutes Per Work Item||Work Items Per Hour||Total Work Items||Total Hours to Complete|
Why Affinity Estimating Works So Well:
- Leaves the numbers out of it.
- Making decisions about assigning numbers allows Affinity Estimating to be so fast and accurate.
- This is because estimating numbers is the most difficult thing to do.
- And so by removing numbers from the conversation, it makes it easier and much faster.
- It’s highly facilitated.
- So the Scrum team can focus on thinking and acting, and isn’t slowed down by process or tools.
- It uses face to face interaction.
- Face to face collaboration is always much much faster and more effective.
- It uses physical objects.
- Working with physical objects like hundreds of cards on a very big wall, is much faster than could possibly be done with a small computer screen with software.
Affinity Estimating Overview:
A fast and effective technique for Story Point estimating, known in the Agile community as Affinity Estimating. It is dramatically faster than Planning Poker. Affinity Estimating consists of techniques that are done with physical objects like paper, tape, markers and walls, and so it cannot be done virtually nearly as effectively or as fast.
During the course of the Affinity Estimating meeting, the team arrives organically at a consensus on what their team’s Story Pointing scale would be. The Story Points are based on the Fibonacci sequence which is the standard Scrum scale for pointing.
Assigning Story Points to work is the last step in an Affinity Estimating Workshop, because making decisions about assigning numbers is one of the reasons why Affinity Estimating is so fast and accurate. This is because estimating numbers is the most difficult thing to do. And so by removing numbers from the conversation, it makes it easier and much faster.
Guidelines for Affinity Estimating Facilitator:
For the facilitator to be as effective and objective as is possible:
- Should NOT be a Scrum team member who will be executing the work.
- Should be a Scrum Master or Agile Coach.
- Although not ideal, a Scrum Product Owner could be the facilitator. As long as 1. is not true for them.
- DO NOT allow the team to talk about numbers. Numbers are the very last thing you will do. By removing numbers from the conversation, it makes it easier and much faster to estimate. This will be clearly once you read and go through the steps below.
Affinity Estimating Step By Step:
These steps are based on in the field refinements over 2-3 years. They may differ slightly from other Affinity Estimating you may read about elsewhere, and that’s because these techniques have proven to work the best.
Print Stories and Bugs from VSTS that your team will be estimating, on to cards.
Write signs on separate pieces of paper, with these labels:
Hint: XS, S, M, L, XL are T Shirt sizes you will use later in the exercise.
Spread the Story/Bug cards out on the conference room table and put a piece of tape on the top of each.
|2.||Estimating Pass 1|
Signs as Directions:
Facilitator – Put signs on the wall to group Stories into:
Choose several Stories as a baseline.
These will act a baseline to compare other Stories with.
Team members select Story/Bug cards from the table that they recognize and tape them on the wall.
Place on the wall according to these guidelines:
No discussion should happen yet – this allows this step to be done very quickly. Hence the name for this step: Silent Placement
|3.||Estimating Pass 2|
Refine the Size Groupings:
Facilitator now helps the team refine the smaller and larger Story/Bug cards in to more size groups by:
|4.||Estimating Pass 3 – Final pass|
Assign them T Shirt sizes:
Once you have at least 5 distinct size groupings, replace the signs with T Shirt size signs.
Final Active Placement:
|5.||Put Numbers on it|
Now it’s time to put Numbers on the Whiteboard:
Facilitator should write these Fibonacci sequence numbers on the whiteboard:
1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21
Assign a Number to M – Medium:
Assign Numbers to all T Shirt Sizes:
Largest Size that can fit in 1 Sprint:
Color code the cards:
Take Down Cards:
Share the Results:
Additional FAQs and Tips:
Q: Can we change the Story Points later ?
- You can change the Story Points at any time you want, all the way up to the Story being planned in to a Sprint and the Sprint started.
- Once the Sprint starts, never change the Story Points ever again.
- This is because Points are essentially to reporting, so changing them after a Sprint starts will break reports.
- If fact, the ScrumMaster and Coach should encourage changing Points whenever the team wants to change it, because they learned something new.
- Re-estimating should be done as a team, NOT individually, so the team can discuss it and ask questions. The accuracy of estimates are better when they are done as a team.
- The team can vote on a new estimate using the Fist of Five technique.
- The team could re-estimate using Estimation Poker.
Q: Should we use person days or hours as points ?
- It’s not needed at this level of estimating.
- It will make estimating much more complicated and time consuming.
- You’ll be wasting time by duplicating effort, because the Scrum team will do person hour estimates on Tasks when they do their Sprint Planning.
Q: How do I print out cards from VSTS ?
A: I’ll document that in Jive later.
- In the meantime, the process is similar to this one I documented in a blog article: JIRA Agile Tip: How To Print Story Cards for Scrum activities