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Re-estimation and Unfinished Work

Updated: Aug 1, 2023

“Finish the work; otherwise an unfinished work will finish you.”

How much we try, but sometimes in some cases, the work is left unfinished.

Still being an agile and well-intended team it is really hard for teams to complete the work within the sprint. If eight product backlog works are allocated in a sprint team may complete seven or six of them but the eighth will be still in the process most time. But the unfinished work doesn’t count. The incomplete work is always counted as the work not started. Because even after finishing it at some point further progress can only be estimated and not sure what time it will take. Various questions arise in such situations.

  • In such cases what should we do?

  • It’s okay to not count unfinished work but what about re-estimating it?

  • Should we re-estimate the unfinished work?

  • Should a team be provided with half-credit or partial credit for half-completed work?


Let’s consider the above questions in today’s discussion and start.

Should Teams be given Partial Credits for Unfinished Work?

On various occasions, we have seen that when the work is an unfinished team or even scrum master provides them for some credit. Like when the completed work consists of 5 points then most teams are given 2.5 points for the work half done. But is it right?

No. Teams must earn their credits when work is completed, as half-done work is not defined in work done by the team. In cases where the teams are given partial or half credit for their unfinished work in most, they may feel good for the time being but at last, they will regret it. While team members are given credit for unfinished work they often overestimate the completed work. This overestimation happens due to team members failing to see the full scope of the product backlog item. For example, Team considers that 90% of the work is done from the product backlog item and only 10% is remaining. But this ‘only 10%’ may change the required time estimation as team members will come to know that the solution is bigger than it occurs. Even after completing most of it, a team may be still away from the end. We always overestimate how done we are and inflate the velocity.

Benefits are provided when there is no partial credit

The main two benefits it provides are

  • The team members always try to select the smaller story from the product backlog when scrum masters avoid giving partial credit. In smaller credits like for 1 amount, it doesn’t matter to team members but when it comes to 8 credit amount they always try to go for shorter product backlog items in instead of going for what they like.

  • Team members always try to complete their items when scrum masters are avoiding partial credit and completing their work.

This no stance to partial credit gives the double benefit of team members bringing smaller items and focusing on completing them.

Now as we are clear with not providing partial credits then let’s move towards should we re-estimate the unfinished work.

Re-estimation of Un-finished Work
Agile framework

Even if partial credit is not given team asks for re-estimation of work to scrum masters. Team members reason that some of the work is completed so it is good to estimate the remaining work of the product backlog item. There are two reasoning while re-estimating the item.

Reasoning out Re-estimation

1) The estimation if done in this second sprint will be more accurate as most of the work is completed and team members have got a better idea about the upcoming or remaining work in that item. So in such cases, everyone will feel it is better to re-estimate the item.

2) While re-estimating the item and getting it in the upcoming sprint we must remember that the item fits well in the sprint. After some work done we may know that the item we considered of five points is of eight points which cannot be fitted in the next sprint. But it is also necessary to plan the sprint. As such, add product backlog items in sprint only when it fits well in that sprint.

If we go resizing the sprint, this topic will go further in a completely different loop of discussion i.e. velocity-driven sprint planning from capacity-driven sprint planning. This sprint planning discussion we will have for another time so be with us. But while re-estimating or not re-estimating the product backlog item always know, “It is not failure, it is an unfinished success.”

About Advance Agility

We, at Advance Agility, are the new-age Agile Coaching, Consulting and IT services company. We enable end-to-end Digital Transformation. Agile execution is integral to our being. We are doing SAFe implementation with small, medium and large organization across the globe. Our vision is to be the leading Agile execution player globally. To keep adding value at every process stage. We are on a mission to empower our clients, move from concept to cash in the shortest sustainable lead time by adopting human centric approach to business agility. Embracing the change is in our DNA. Things that keep us apart are Quicker and Seamless execution with End-to-end gamut of services. Our Global presence and Stellar Track Record give us an edge over our competitor.

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