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Assume we have two projects and one or more teams (one team doing the projects in serial or two teams doing the projects in parallel).

If Team A decides that a task is 8 story points and Team B decides that a task on their project is also 8 story points, does that say anything about the relationship between the two tasks? Or is there no relationship between the complexity of the two tasks?

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I get asked the same question all the time by PM's with mostly waterfall experience. The concept of a point as a relative measurement is a perverse affront in the eyes of a bean counter whose only skill is tracking development time in Microsoft Project. –  maple_shaft Nov 4 '11 at 11:05

4 Answers 4

There certainly doesn't have to be any correlation unless one team is working both projects in parallel. Then there must be, or the business cannot choose the priority work.

If two teams are working on separate projects in parallel, I see very little benefit to trying to relate the points across them. In fact I work on one of several teams who work in parallel like that, our points systems aren't even close to being the same and we've never run into a problem.

However, if one team is working on two projects in serial, there is one. You can carry the velocity from one project to the next, having learned lessons, rather than starting afresh.

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No. No relationship. None.

People (PM's?) who ask this need to be walked through why teams estimate in story points rather than hours. It isn't to be clever, but to build up a learning system within the team that the team can use/relate over the course of the project to help refine the team's ability to incorporate customer facing features into a product. This forces Functional/Project/Program/Product Managers to think -very- differently about looking at a portfolio of projects. The dev team is using a different process, and the key stakeholders will need to as well.

Caveat - Two teams made of corresponding identical twins working on the exact same product at the exact same time working across the hall from one another might come close. Maybe.

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There a couple of different scenarios to my mind here that really do affect my answer:

  1. Team making the estimates share the same baseline - This could be the same team estimating both tasks or different teams that agree on the same baseline of the scale,i.e. how complex is 1 story point is the same in both Team A and Team B. In this case, the tasks should be close in complexity. They probably won't match as there could be some variability in how long it takes to get something done.

  2. Teams that are making estimates from an unshared baseline - This would be the more general case where each team has its own idea of how complex is a point and so an 8 story point task may get estimated much higher or lower by another team.

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  • a story is sized by a Team against other stories from a pool (Product Backlog if you do Scrum).

So unless your 2 projects involve the same team and a common pool, the answer is a NO

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