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I did a look around and couldn't find a question that addresses my case, so I figured I would post.

I have a situation where as a new team, we ran into 2 unforseen spikes (is there a better term?) during a sprint. We 'thought' we knew, but then we had to research mid way, so this introduced a spike.

My questions are:

  • If we have an outage/process issue (Jenkins craps out, requires 8 hours of debugging / setup by a dev or more), is this a spike or somethine else? Do I create a spike, throw it into Sprint (mid sprint), do I then subtract hours from overall sprint (8hr spike = minus 8hrs of planned tasks?) or just end up with undelivered items for next sprint?
  • If I had an estimate of 8 hours for something, then the devs find, in fact they need to research more, do I have a spike there too? remove task times? etc;

I want to make sure I have a better hand at planning out these 'unforeseen' events, and have a good idea of deliverables for the sprint.

I'm looking at this from a purely Project Management perspective where I need to report up the chain on progress / burndown of tasks / deliverables.

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up vote 11 down vote accepted

If Jenkins craps out, that's a distraction rather than a spike. A spike is the R in R&D. A spike is "we know we're going to need to do X, but don't know how big X is or what X means, so let's figure it out this sprint, so we can plan for it next sprint".

If a task takes more hours because it takes more research then you planned, then it takes more hours -- that's all that means. Your burndown will reflect that and you can learn from it.

Remember that a burndown and all those points and hours and tasks etc. aren't a contract. You don't win anything by hitting your numbers or lose anything by missing; they are a tool to help estimate. If you're way off, study why, and try to figure out how to do better next time.

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Yeah, that's how I'm handling it now, not holding them to points or burndown hours/tasks. I just want to be in a position where I can properly account for these items when executives ask on progress (and questions of resource allocation). I trust my dev's but I don't trust the business to understand when they see missed deliverables. –  Jakub Jan 16 '13 at 18:29
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@Jakub: for each distraction, put a sticky note on the board in a section labeled "Distractions", and write down how many hours were spent on that distraction. Then you can say "we failed to finish all of our stories because we had X hours of unaccounted for distractions". –  Bryan Oakley Jan 16 '13 at 19:04
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