There have been several users in the past that have specifically wanted to put estimations on kanban boards. Ollie's answer has explained there is a way to show that "Story Points" field on a card in a Kanban board, but this isn't the same as being able to estimate issues like you can in a Scrum backlog/board. This isn't something that can be done right now in a Kanban board. There is an open feature request for this in https://jira.atlassian.com/browse/JSWSERVER-7265
It's possible that this might come to Jira Software someday in the future. However I don't know if or when that might be.
Estimations are not something Atlassian views as useful in a Kanban project. I would recommend that users that want this, please read our Kanban vs Scrum https://www.atlassian.com/agile/kanban/kanban-vs-scrum
page. I think it could help to explain the key differences between these two types of agile methodologies, and in turn perhaps you can see the reasons for why Atlassian built kanban boards in this way. The breakdown chart on that page I think can help clarify why Atlassian has created Kanban and Scrum boards in the way it did. Specifically if you look towards Key metrics and Change philosophy of each methodology:
With these concepts in mind, estimations clearly have great value in Scrum, where the speed at which your team works aka velocity is very important but changes are supposed to be limited between sprints. But since Kanban's change philosophy permits changes at any time, the estimations become extremely difficult to be useful here or provide value when working under this specific methodology.
I hope this helps explain better why Kanban operates in this way.
While watching and voting on the JSWSERVER ticket can help Atlassian prioritize changes and features, in the meantime, there are other 3rd party solutions that might be feasible for some environments. At least one of these I know of that can help achieve this is the Agile Poker plugin https://marketplace.atlassian.com/apps/700473/agile-poker-estimation-tool-for-jira?hosting=cloud&tab=overview
There also could be other solutions in Marketplace for this specific functionality.
With all due respect, Andy, Atlassian's position seems to have a very narrow view of the purpose of story points. Story points have nothing to do with speed. They represent the size of the work, which is comprised of effort, complexity and risk. As pointed out in an excellent article on DZone (https://dzone.com/articles/is-there-any-value-in-estimating-if-youre-using-ka), the size of the work is used to help guide prioritization and splitting.
Prioritization is still a thing in Kanban. Constant change merely means constant changes in priority as well. Without the size of the work, prioritization has a serious blind spot in its decision-making.
As for splitting, Kanban boards are fairly useless unless items are moving regularly from one column to another. When an item sits like a lump in the same column for weeks on end, transparency is lost and executives start to question the value of Agile. I've seen teams abandon the use of standups entirely because the status is the same every day. Work that is very large must be split up into smaller tasks that can be tracked. Sometimes that is done with sub-tasks and sometimes it needs to be done at the Story / Task level. Without sizing, that work cannot be done, putting Agile at risk.
Finally, there is the issue of cycle time. I think it should be obvious that the cycle time of a 3-point story is different than the cycle time of an 8-point story. A single cycle time metric that integrates all sizes is horribly inaccurate and cannot be used as a predictor for any given story. Cycle time should be calculated from stories / tasks that have the same size. That would make more sense.
Sizing is important. It's a thing. Kanban needs it. If you don't want to use story points, what do you propose to replace it?
I agree, I think the Atlassian view is narrow and dogmatic in this case. Ironically, we use Kanban boards because of the Scrum principle of no-waste. Creating new sprints is waste, it doesn't add any value. Before we had digital boards, did we screw a new board onto the wall after each sprint? No we didn't.
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