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Quantifying work effort consistently can be difficult for portfolio and program managers. We use normalized Story Points and set baselines to quantify effort across teams for strategic planning purposes.

When planning at the enterprise level, our clients often lack details related to the initiatives within a given timeline or roadmap.  We use enterprise agile estimation methods to provide reliable estimates of workload, capacity and velocity at the team, program and portfolio levels. The same unit of measurement must be used across levels, teams and time (i.e., development iterations or sprints) for this to work properly. We establish story points as a unit of measurement to normalize capacity across teams.

Establish Time Standard

Use 2-week sprints as a time-box for development iterations. A sprint is 10 days excluding holidays and company time off.

Establish Effort Standard

The typical developer day is 8 hours. We assume about 20% of the day is taken up by planning, presenting work, training and other company functions. This translates into 6 hours of effort for each day per developer and tester. This is what we consider a typical developer day, which generally aligns with the SAFe® definition of the same, called an Ideal Developer Day (IDD). The Scaled Agile Framework®, developed by Dean Leffingwell, is a framework developed for Lean software and systems engineering that we use as a guide in our enterprise agile efforts.

Align Effort to Points

Use a “1-point-per-developer day” for each developer and tester on the team as a starting point. Find a story in the backlog that would take about a half-day to code and a half-day to test/validate. Use this as your 1 point baseline story. Have all teams baseline using the same method.

Create Sprint Estimation Baseline

Normalize across teams to a common story point and velocity forecast using these standards and baselines. Each team should use the following process:

  • Give the team 10 points each for every developer and tester on the team (10-day sprint at 1 point per day = 10 points).
  • Subtract one point for every team member day off (vacation, PTO, company holiday, etc.).
  • Find a story in the backlog that would take about a half-day to code and a half-day to test/validate. Call this baseline a 1 point story.
  • Estimate each story relative to that baseline story.

Assuming we have 4 developers and 2 testers on a team, the team’s capacity for a 10-day sprint would ideally be 60 points. This further translates into 120 points per month and 360 points per quarter.

Agile Techniques Series

We have worked with many large organizations to help implement Agile development and business demand processes at the team and enterprise level. Our Scaled Agilist experts have created a series of thoughts to help companies identify practical ways to address Agile business transformation in their own organizations. If you would like to discuss these techniques in more detail, please contact us. Enjoy!

Read our other articles in this Series: How work happens; Work maturity; and Top-down estimation.

Certified Scaled Agilists:

Mike Simon

Mike Simon 
Principal Consultant

Derek Riddle

Derek Riddle 
Creative Services Director

Bryan Galloway

Bryan Galloway 
Business Analyst

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