Reader question: Alternatives to Story Points for Sprint planning

July 11, 2022
My opinion is that days are usually better than story points, for the simple reason that they're less confusing.

I recently got contacted via direct message on LinkedIn by Paul Ockleford, who ran across some of my content there. He asked (shared with permission, lightly edited for clarity):

Hi,

I wanted to ask if you could give me a quick pointer to an alternative to points when planning.

Would you advocate just using days (which people are often against)?

My team use story points with limited success other than it serves as a general estimate for working out what we can fit into a sprint.

It’s not used by the business as some sort of chokehold but if there is a better alternative we might like to experiment as often (on more than 1 team) the points end up attributed to days anyway, with 2 or 3 points equalling a day.

I am not a scrum master, but I do find it interesting and my team practice some form of scrum so if we can try something better I think we should.

Thanks,

Paul Ockleford

Thanks for the question!

My personal opinion is that days (or hours) are virtually always better than story points, for the simple reason that they’re less confusing.

However, if the team is not communicating the estimates outside of the team, then my normal advice is to not bother with estimations at all. For most teams, the act of estimation takes time that could better be used delivering value.

That has implications for sprint planning, of course. Basically it means you can’t commit to rigid set of work before the sprint starts. This can actually be a good thing, depending on the work you’re doing, as it can make it easier to focus on the sprint goal, as a means of business value, rather than as a particular scope as defined by a list of stories.

I hope this helps!

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