do all stories have a value?

In Lean Software Development Mary & Tom propose that software teams be motivated and empowered by having the financial impact of their decisions made visible to them. And elsewhere on various email lists I’ve seen discussion of the possibility of assigning a dollar business value to each feature/story. I think that in principle these are both good ideas, and I said so to Clarke last week.

Clarke raised a very good objection: Many, if not most, features have no value outwith the context of their release; how can they be assigned an individual value when they cannot stand alone?

Perhaps the answer can be found by subtraction? Assume we can assign a dollar value to the release as a whole, and suppose also we can calculate the gains and losses of delivering it earlier and/or later. Then maybe we can also calculate the loss in value the would occur if we shipped the release without feature X? Would this figure make sense as a kind of ‘derived value’ for the feature?

And finally, is there any merit in assigning a dollar value to each story anyway? Perhaps we should be content with an overall value for each release, and calculate variants on that only if the scope or release schedule are threatened…

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