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Estimating User story

Updated: Feb 9

“Guessing is the first step towards knowing” - Anonymous

This quote encapsulates the essence of estimation in business. Some view the process of estimating time, effort, and cost as a cornerstone for financial planning. Others perceive it as unreliable and subjective. This dichotomy is particularly pronounced in the agile industry.

The Dilemma: The Role of Estimation

Opponents of estimation raise valid concerns:

Unreliability: They argue that estimates are often off the mark, making them ineffective.

Habit Over Necessity: Critics perceive estimations as an age-old practice, not a critical part of the process.

Issues of Trust: Estimations, typically inflated, can lead to distrust and opacity within teams.

Resource Drain: Critics contend that estimation drains time and money, yielding imprecise results.

Despite these arguments, businesses rely on estimation to rationalize expenditures, particularly when setting annual project budgets. Resources are tactically allocated to the most viable projects.

Pre-criteria to Estimating User Stories

  • Clarify the User Story with Product Owner

  • Be Clear on Definition of Done      

  • Check whether the Acceptance Criteria meets the INVEST principles

  • Access to Reference User Stories to be able to apply the concept of Relative Estimation

Relative Estimation – Key to effective measurements

For successful estimation, best practice is to use relative estimation by comparing size and complexity of User Stories to each other. Planning Poker is a technique often used during this process. The most common scale used for this exercise is the Fibonacci Series which reflects that increasing size and complexity leads to less effective estimation.

Common Pitfalls in Story Estimation

“Experience is simply the name we give our mistakes.” - Oscar Wilde

Steering clear of common errors is crucial in the estimation process:

Converting Points to Hours: This imparts a false sense of precision.

Averaging Estimates: This misrepresents the story’s complexity.

Adjusting Story Points Every Sprint: This erases velocity data essential for process improvement.

Adjusting Points Based on Assigned Persons: This undermines estimation accuracy and leads to confusion.


In conclusion, agile teams can benefit from learning from past errors, adopting a balanced approach to estimation, and refining processes for precise project planning. This paves the way for improved outcomes.


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