Can We Have a Zero-Point Story?


I use the popular modified Fibonacci sequence to estimate stories: 0, ½, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 20, 40, 60, 100, ∞. (The 60 point story is my idea).

But what does a 0-point story look like? Can we really deliver a CRM feature with no effort? A couple of weeks ago I was facilitating a story mapping workshop for Tourism NT in Darwin, Australia. Our stakeholders, Adam and Angus, suggested a couple of  simple stories:

  1. Add a contact
  2. Sync contacts with Outlook
  3. Add a note to a contact

These are all standard CRM features. Does that mean that they are 0-point stories that require no effort by the CRM team to implement them? First of all, I had to uncover a little of the detail behind each story:

  1. Add a contact. This was the first time we had discussed the contact entity so I anticipated some effort to customise the entity: remove unnecessary fields from the form, adjust the columns displayed in the system views and configure the duplicate detection rules. Adam and Angus agreed that they'd probably have some acceptance criteria for this story later. Where there's customisation effort there's an estimate, so this one isn't a zero-point story.
  2. Sync contacts with Outlook. Tourism NT's IT department would be configuring server-side sync or CRM for Outlook so there wouldn't be any work for the CRM team to do. But we agreed that the CRM team would probably have to work with IT to test the feature and include a section for it in the CRM user guide. Where there's test and documentation effort there's an estimate, so this one isn't a zero-point story either.
  3. Add a note to a contact. When I discussed this one with Adam and Angus they just wanted a simple feature so that any user could add a note to a contact that could be seen by other users. Each note should be automatically stamped with the author's name and the date/time the note was created. A 30-second demo of the standard notes feature was all it took to agree that the standard feature was sufficient. We agreed we wouldn't even need to test or document this feature and the standard security roles all include sufficient privileges for working with notes. So is it a zero-point story when there is no effort to estimate?

Is it a zero-point story when there is no effort to estimate?

I'm in two minds about zero-point stories.

Sometimes I find it useful to track a zero-point story so that our product backlog represents all the features we've been asked to deliver, even if some of them are free.

But there are thousands of standard CRM features that we don't ever customise and just expect to work. If we wrote an index card for all those standard features, zero-point stories our project room would be a fire hazard.

So I rarely recommend tracking zero-point stories.

Adam and Angus trashed the sticky-note for the 'Add a note to a contact' story and we moved on.

I'd love to get your feedback in the comments. Have you found it useful to track zero-point stories? Or do you rip up the stories that describe standard CRM features and move on to other more complex and valuable stories?