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How to handle points in the following scenario:

We have a story set to 4 points, because the team believes that the amount of work is 4 points in total. To be able to complete this story, two people with their special knowledge, needs to work together on that item.

This does not that the first person will do the first half, then the next person will do the second half, they will have to do all of the four points together, by pair programming for instance.

It seems unfair to say that if both persons have 8 points each in a sprint, we can fit four 4 point stories in. Since both will be working together, only 2 four point stories will fit.

How to handle this? Should the points of the story be increased or should the peoples capacity be lowered somehow?

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First, it's important to realize that Velocity is not on a per-person basis, but a measure of the team's capability to deliver work in a Sprint. Every Sprint, your team completes so many Story Points. You use this to determine how many items to bring into the next Sprint, based on history and considering level of effort by staff.

Each item in the Product Backlog has a number of Story Points that is estimated by the team. You shouldn't be estimating the size of an item in the Product Backlog based on how long it will take or how many people it will take, but by relative complexity. A User Story that requires two people with specialist knowledge, by definition, is more complex than one that doesn't. Therefore, it should be worth more points than a User Story that doesn't require any specialist knowledge or one that requires less specialist knowledge.

If you begin planning on a team capacity level instead of an individual capacity level and consider complexity instead of effort and time, then I think your issues will start to resolve themselves.

  • Thanks for a great reply! So basically we should look at the total capacity for the team, then add some extra points to our stories if they are very much more complex than the simplest ones, and then load our sprints up to the total capacity? Then on execution, we just pull the items. If two people are needed, we use two people, if more or less are needed, we use whatever is applicable? Then later on we learn from velocity and load our sprints accordingly? – Michael Jun 9 '16 at 19:17
  • @Michael You shouldn't "add extra points" if they are more complex. They should just have more points. Points should be a measure of complexity. You should also be using as many people as necessary to get the job done and trying (as much as possible) to share knowledge. People may not be the expert, but the more they know and can do, the better for the team if someone happens to get sick or take a vacation or leave the company. – Thomas Owens Jun 9 '16 at 19:21
  • Ah, sorry, I did not mean the adding part in that sense, I meant it more like you wrote it :) I like the knowledge-sharing part of that. In our team each person has his own area/product and we find it really hard to share stuff, since that single person gets the job done faster without the other two hanging around, but I guess that's not an excuse in the agile world. – Michael Jun 9 '16 at 19:26
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Story points reflect relative size and complexity of a story. That is the effort required to complete a story is the only measure to assign points to a story. If your PBI is complex enough that two people will have to work on it together than it should be assign more points compared to a similar sized PBI which can be finished by only one person. I don't think capacity should be artificially lowered for this as it will incorrectly impact your metrics such as team velocity.

  • Sorry for my ignorance, but what does PBI stand for? – Michael Jun 9 '16 at 19:29
  • @michael PBI is Product Backlog Item – Aziz Shaikh Jun 9 '16 at 19:45

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