On Estimation

February 26, 2021

Estimation and/or pointing has three purposes:

  1. To generate discussion within the team so people have an idea of the complexity of the work and are aligned on what it takes to get the job done, and what the general approach will be. It's the main reason we have story points - to see how aligned people are in their view of the work. It generates discussion and that conversation is by far the most useful feature of story points.
  2. Capacity planning - this is usually a Scrum thing. I have honestly never seen this done right. Ever.
  3. Forecasting - management just abuses this and we should try to stay away from this because it gives the illusion of accuracy disguised as precision.

The first is easily the most useful part and the second and third are rarely useful, and often harmful for many reasons.

If we do want to do estimating, I recommend reading the Ron Jeffries (the guy who invented story points) who has a nice blog post about the pitfalls of story points and how when he came up with the idea it was mainly about developer focus.