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InfoQ eMag: Agile Project Estimation and Planning

by InfoQ on Aug 25, 2014

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Estimation is often considered to be a black art practiced by magicians using strange rituals. It is one of the most controversial of activities in Agile projects – some maintain that even trying to estimate agile development is futile at best and dangerous at worst.

There are indeed times when estimating is unnecessary and/or pointless. If the work is novel, nothing like it has been attempted before, the skills of the team (or who the team will be) are unknown or the work just has to be done (either the value to be derived from having the product is compelling or it is a compliance or survival project) then estimating may be a waste of time and effort.

The more common reality is that there is a need to provide at some sort of estimate of the likely time and cost needed to build the product. Business decisions need to be made regarding which initiatives to fund and the allocation of funds and people to do the work. However there are lots of risks and mistakes associated with estimation, and there are a number of alternate approaches which can be used.

In this eMag we selected articles which present ways of coming up with estimates as well as some that argue for alternate approaches.

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Contents of the Agile Project Estimation and Planning eMag include:

  • Interview with Eduardo Miranda about Estimating and Planning Agile Projects - Eduardo Miranda, associate professor at the Master of Software Engineering program at Carnegie Mellon University explains the need for planning in agile projects, and describes various planning techniques that can be used with agile. He also looks on the impact of agile on project management offices and on the role of project managers in agile projects.
  • User Story Estimation Techniques - One of the great things about working as a consultant is the ability to try out many different ideas and adapting your personal favorite process to include things that work. This article gives the details about user story estimation techniques that Jay Fields has found effective.
  • Estimating on agile projects: what’s the story, what’s the point? - David Morris explores the topic of agile estimating: what it is, how we typically do it, why we should bother, some of the alternatives, and provides some advice for new players.
  • The Prioritization Divide: With Numbers or Without? - While there are many methods that use stories as a means for prioritizing development, there's a basic divide that asks whether it should be done with numbers or without. There are arguments on both sides, but instead of examining these, people tend to fall into one side naturally. Once there, they can become quickly entrenched in the belief that the other camp is foolishly mistaken.
  • The Guessing Game: Alternatives to Agile Estimation - Neil Killick proposes ways to reduce risk and uncertainty, calculate a product’s price, determine delivery dates and roadmap, do Scrum and XP without using estimates.
  • Planning and Controlling Complex Projects - Planning and budgeting large projects is often based on trying to predict how development will turn out. Stories are estimated by the development team, but the budget for the whole project is independent from those estimates. Especially for complex projects this leads most often to (unwanted) surprises. Insights from beyond budgeting can help to increase flexibility, and focus on business value.

About InfoQ eMags

InfoQ eMags are professionally designed, downloadable collections of popular InfoQ content - articles, interviews, presentations, and research - covering the latest software development technologies, trends, and topics.

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