Agile Estimating


What you’ll learn in this presentaion


  • How estimates are used on Agile projects.
  • How to define estimates.
  • The basics of planning poker to help estimate.

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The Agile Planning Process
  • Agile-Estimating-agile-planningPlanning occurs throughout the development cycle and is spread across the entire team.
  • “Work the plan, not work to the plan.”
  • A user story is a short description of a function that an end user would want.
  • Stories serve as a form of currency between the customers and the development team.


The Agile Planning Process
  • Estimates are needed to support ongoing planning in Agile projects.
  • Estimates help to answer the following questions:
    • How many stories can we fit into the release?
    • How many stories will be completed in the next iteration?
    • What are the impacts of adding, removing and changing stories?


What is an Estimate?
  • what-is-an-esitmateAn estimate is a measure of the relative size, interms of effort, of a story.
  • Why focus on size?
    • Estimate size to derive duration.
    • Size can be estimated.
    • Duration is hard to determine due to meetings,non-work appointments and other distractions that cannot be estimated.
Effort vs. Duration

agile-esitmating-effort-vs-duration• Not separating effort from duration is a common estimating error.

• In reality, developers (and people in general) are good at estimating the effort required to complete something but not the time needed.
• For software, development effort can be estimated but, to determine duration, additional time needs to be factored in to account for:

1. non-development project time (e.g. standup meetings), and
2. non-project work time (e.g. internal nonproject meetings, medical appointments).
• Baseball analogy: the effort to complete a game is 54 outs or 9 innings, but what’s the duration of these events – and those in between?

Ideal Time vs. Real Time


  • Ideal Time = effort
    • Time required to complete something with no interruptions.
    • Represents effort.
    • Can be estimated relatively accurately.
  • Real Time = duration
    • The actual time to complete something.
    • Includes breaks, distractions, delays.
    • Difficult to estimate – must be derived.
The Value of Estimates


  • Address the Law of Diminishing Returns
    • Make the most efficient use of development time.
  • Benefits from the input of several people
    • Estimates are shared amongst the team.
  • Supports ongoing planning
    • Facilitate planning discussions at the right level.
  • Easy to change
    • Can be revised, split, etc.
Estimate Values


  • Estimates can be measured in terms of:
    • Points.
    • Ideal days.
    • Any other unit of measurement that makes sense to the team.
  • Common estimating scales:
    • Standard interval – 1, 2, 3, …
    • Fibonacci series – 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, …
    • Doubling interval – 1, 2, 4, 8, 16, …
What is Velocity in Estimating?
  • velocity-in-estimatingA measure of the rate of progress.
  • Needed for iteration and release planning.
  • Usually measured in terms of points or ideal days per iteration.
  • Converts ideal time or estimates to duration.
  • Corrects for variability and errors in estimation.
How Is Velocity Determined?


Three Primary Methods:

  1. Historical Values
    • Use observed velocity from past iterations.
  2. Test Iterations
    • Run a test iteration and measure actual velocity.
  3.  Forecast
    • Compare available staff hours with story task breakdown estimates.
Planning Poker


  • Recognized as one of the best ways for Agile teams to estimate because it:
    • encourages the entire development team to participate;
    • is easy, interactive, and fun; and
    • facilitates quick consensus on estimates.
Planning Poker Procedure
  1. agile-planning-poker-procedureTeam meets around a table with cards.
  2. Moderator reads out a story.
  3. Moderator answers questions.
  4. Estimators privately select a size card.
  5. Estimators show their cards.
  6. Any discrepancies are discussed, additional questions are answered.
  7. Estimators re-estimate by selecting a new size card and revealing it.
  8. Repeat.
Planning Poker – Key Things to Remember


  • The moderator can be anyone…product owner, scrum master, analyst, etc.
  • Keep to the left side of the effort/accuracy curve.
  • Limit each round of discussion to no more than a few minutes – a timer can help.
  • Convergence is usually reached on the 2nd round.
  • Absolute agreement is not required.
    • 5, 3, 5, 8, 5 – this would be sufficient to arrive at 5 as the estimate.