Lately I’ve been trying to understand how best to represent Known Unknowns (KU) stories/tasks in the BDC. I’m talking about things like Support cases from customers – things not related to stories from the backlog essentially, that you know you will need to address.
Its the kind of stuff that “is not supposed to happen” as part of the sprint, but we’re in the real world, and in the real world, it happens.
I’m familiar with two major ways to account for those:
- One is to remove them from the capacity. This removes it from visibility, OTOH it makes for a pure burndown/capacity/velocity calculation/tracking
- The other is to create stories for those “buckets”. This way you can track them, have better visibility.
Assuming an organization is interested in tracking and measuring this part of the work, the team needs to integrate this into their burndown chart, velocity, etc.
The issue is that those tasks are sort of a “buffer for rainy day”, so the remaining effort on them as the sprint goes by is not necessarily related to actual invested effort compared to the whole bucket, but rather to time left where the events might happen.
Think support cases from customers – assuming you have a 30 day sprint. you planned on 20 days for the sprint based on yesterday’s weather. after 15 days, assuming you spent 5 days on this already, what should be the remaining effort for the BDC?
Naively, 20-5=15 days. But realistically, the statistics are that after half of the sprint, if your yesterday’s weather is to be counted on, 20/2=10.
Is anyone aware of any tools that manage these kinds of KU effectively without requiring the team/SM to manually update the remaining effort?
Together with some other coaches, we raised the option of drawing the planned work as an internal burndown line BELOW the total burndown. Another alternative was to show a burnup of this kind of work separately, so the team has visibility.
The idea is to make sure the team knows whether they got lucky and had more capacity left for their planned work, so should be more aggressive than their original plans, or the other way around. Without this kind of visibility, a critical aspect of the burndown chart is lost – teams don’t trust it, there is too much fog to see clearly where they SHOULD be so they don’t hold themselves accountable to where they ACTUALLY are.
Bonus question – do you have teams that count this work into velocity? using SP? How?
Note that the rationale for counting this into velocity is the “metric” side of velocity, not the planning aspect.
Its clear that this cannot be used to plan the release. It can, if you find the right way to account for it, reflect productivity of the team around this kind of work.