Estimating and planning is an essential aspect of the Agile methodology and project management. With the traditional waterfall project management approach, where projects are mapped into sequential phases, the estimating and planning activities mostly happen at the beginning of the project, when the level of uncertainty is at its highest. Estimating and planning at this time increases the risk of failures because there are so many unknowns.
In contrast, an Agile project management approach to estimating and planning breaks down the activities into multiple levels. The process is based on simple, easily determined measures that are iterated and refined throughout the software development life cycle. This process generates estimates that are often more accurate – and almost always more useful – than those produced by other approaches. The Agile methodology provides a rough idea of how a project manager can plan and estimate to make a project successful. Estimating and planning are two factors that influence the outcome of any project.
The Agile Approach to Estimation: Time vs. Size
An estimate is nothing more than a well-educated guess. In traditional software project management, estimates are based on the question: “How long will it take?” In Agile, estimates are based on the question: “How big is it?”
While the difference in approaches might seem subtle and even a little arbitrary at first glance, focusing on project size rather than completion time while estimating turns out to be a real game-changer.
Consider the classic Agile unit of measure: T-shirt size. Most of us could look at a T-shirt and make a good guess as to whether it’s a small, medium, or large.
More importantly, if we were shown two T-shirts of different sizes and asked to decide which one is bigger, we would almost certainly get it right. Likewise, if we were given a big pile of T-shirts and asked to sort them into three piles by size, we would probably do pretty well with this task, too.
This idea of relative sizing is the fundamental driver in Agile estimation. It turns out that just like we’re all pretty good at ranking T-shirts by their relative sizes, development teams are pretty good at ranking stories by their relative sizes.
Furthermore, just as we’re likely to have a hard time guessing the exact width of a T-shirt, it can be difficult for development teams to guess precisely how long a task will take. Instead, teams are better at ranking stories and work by relative size.
Making relative estimates is an effective way to reduce the amount of time spent on evaluating work while also greatly increasing the accuracy of the estimates.
Why Agile Estimation and Planning is Key
Performing estimating and planning in an Agile way offers many benefits. Here are some examples:
- We save time and effort by breaking the project into multiple levels. At each level of estimation and planning, we put in an appropriate amount of effort for the level of understanding.
- We are transparent and flexible about the project scope, reflecting on feedback from stakeholders and users. By taking their feedback into account, we are set up to build products that match the needs of the business and the users, rather than building outdated products by following the exact requirements defined at the beginning.
- Estimating and planning in an Agile way helps teams to be self-organized and deliver success consistently.
- This approach makes teams more accountable for deliverables, as it instills discipline across Agile teams, enables better sprint management, and improves overall team productivity.
At Wizeline, Agile is not only a working methodology – it’s a part of our culture. Most projects at Wizeline follow Agile and Scrum frameworks, resulting in a more organized team process and faster results for our customers.
If you’re interested in learning more about our Agile approach and how it can help you accelerate projects geared toward modernizing core technology, improving user experience, and becoming more data-driven, contact us today!