Saturday, August 19, 2006

Dealing With Uncertainty in Stories

Extreme Programming uses stories to define the scope of a system. Sometimes teams have difficulties to estimate the size of stories with a satisfying accuracy. Different approaches to address this issue are possible, e.g. making stories even smaller.

Another approach is to look for the elements in a story that represent the risk. Then these elements can be addressed in a time-boxed spike (or experiment). The remainder stays thus becomes a low risk story.

Risky elements may be new technologies that need to be tried first, or a cool new user interface widget. An example of the later could mean that you might want to implement a simple (maybe even un-cool) version of the interface first. And separately you play the story with the spike for the cool widget. That way you deliver value while at the same time pushing the envelope in a time-boxed fashion. If the outcome of the spike is good then you can play a third story to improve the user interface.

With this approach I have seen different teams addressing risk, and at the same time improve their estimation skills. There are certainly more techniques. If you know of another simple way to deal with this I would be interested to hear from you.

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