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Story Points or hours?

I was asked: “What do your prefer: estimation with hours or estimation with story points?“

Short answer: I don’t care. 

Very long answer

The big question is what you make out of it:

My focus of estimation (or sizing as it is called in Scrum) is to catalyse conversation. 

If in a team you have one person who says “it’s an 8” and another person says “it’s a 3”, then you have people who have different knowledge about the situation. This is a great opportunity for learning! 

One of them describes what s/he sees that they would give it an 8… the other person learns a ton “oh I didn’t know about that!” OR replies with additional information like “but I already write a script about this!” … and most of the times it’s a mixture of bot and we have a lot of learning!

(Of course all the other people in the room also listen, share knowledge, generate new insights and learn!) 

So it’s not about 3 or 8 it’s about the information and knowledge and the team conversation about this topic. 

It makes no difference if 3 or 8 are hours, story points or gummy bears!

And yes, whatever the number, you can write it down somewhere, you can burn it down in some graphs, you can use it for empirical planning. But the biggest benefit is: it is a catalyst for discussion!

As I said, it’s important to know what you make out of it… and actually more important what others make out of it: if you somehow write down that this is estimated as “x hours” then some people might take this as a promise that somebody is finished after “x hours”. Some people don’t know, or oversee the fact that it is an estimation, a guess. It is NOT reading the future in a magical glass ball, it is not knowing the future. And nobody can be held accountable if this is achieved, or not. In addition we have the big confusion if these are real or ideal times we are talking about. 

With story points you can step back from this discussion. Still some people try to add some smart thoughts for defining story points in hours. I assume they have not understood the difference, and not seen the benefit. 

It would be more important here to teach about respect to people,  openness and courage.