These Proven Agile Project Estimation Techniques Will Help You Stay on Track
- By Michael Atkinson
Any project requires the creation of a schedule. Even in Agile methodology, where things change quickly, teams must estimate the amount of time and money needed for each activity to plan and achieve results.
When used appropriately, Agile project estimating methodologies allow teams to distribute their talents and resources better and prioritize specific tasks and features. Conversely, inaccurate estimates can result in late deliveries, endangering stakeholder relationships as well as the project's overall performance. Estimation also aids in the accountability of teams for their outputs by establishing benchmarks for allocated tasks.
Seasoned Product Owners or Project Managers may be acquainted with many popular estimate methodologies. However, choosing the ideal approach is crucial for attaining the best results, and each method is distinct and has its own set of benefits. In addition, the way you use is determined by several criteria, including the project's complexity, the size of the team, or whether or not you work remotely.
Here's a review of the most useful Agile project estimation approaches, along with some tips for choosing the best one for your team.
Planning Poker: For Accurate Estimates
The group leader distributes nine cards to every other team member, each with a number that represents a degree of complexity in this consensus-building process. The digits are frequently from the Fibonacci sequence, in which the total of the previous two numbers equals the next or a variant of it.
Rather than using a linear scale, this exponential sequence helps teams more clearly detect the variations between jobs, and thus the complexity of those activities. Group members pick the card that they think symbolizes the amount of effort—usually quantified in terms of length or cost—required to finish a job for every function or story point, face down (1 typically represents the least amount of effort).
Cards get disclosed in sequence, but if any of the cards for one feature or user narrative differ substantially from one another, outliers explain why they voted the way they did. Members of the team continue to vote till they agree.
Planning Poker reduces the possibility of participants influencing each other, improving the accuracy of the final estimate. It also helps using time efficiently by restricting options, and teams typically reach consensus quickly. In addition, this method is ideal among distributed teams because of simple replication from a distance.
T-shirt Sizes: Estimation in the Early Stages
This methodology enables the estimation of a substantial amount of elements identical to Planning Poker but with fewer alternatives. Participants utilize cards with T-shirt sizes—XS, S, M, L, XL—to signify how much effort they estimate each item requires. Teammates play their cards, then analyze and re-estimate until they agree.
This technique is perfect for teams that are new to estimation. And for those that operate remotely because of its ease and simplicity, as well as its collaborative character.
Dot Voting: For Teams Working from A Distance
This approach is best used digitally with a whiteboard application like Miro because it is relatively quick and easy. First, the group leader makes a list of the sprint, and each staff member is handed dot stickers in a different color to place underneath the things on the list—one sticker for the simplest of an item, five stickers for the most complicated. But, of course, the more dots a thing has, the bigger and much more complicated it appears.
Dot voting provides an easily consumable visual representation, and you can raise the level of precision by choosing a larger scale, such as 1-10, if necessary.
Affinity Mapping: For Onsite Teams
Affinity Estimation compares items taking similar amounts of effort and grouping them into sets. The final result is close to T-shirt Size, but the path to get there is different. The team starts by writing "Smaller" on the left side of a wall and "Larger" on the right to signify effort level. Next, goods are distributed amongst the team simultaneously, and group members set their items on the wall between the two labels, grouping items of comparable size. They next discuss and change any things that team members feel are poorly organized.
It should only be employed when a less thorough concept of project length and expense is required, as it provides an approximate estimate of item intricacy.
Bucket System: If you have a lot of work on your plate
The moderator sets nine "buckets" for this technique; commonly, giant cards are on a table. First, the Fibonacci sequence or similar variant gets used to number the cards in order. Next, the items on the backlog are written on sticky notes or smaller cards and distributed among the teammates. To begin, one participant chooses an item randomly and places it in the middle of the eight buckets.
After then, each team member arranges their things in the bucket that they believe best represents the work required concerning the first item. Group members assess all of the buckets at the end of the exercise; if someone thinks an item gets placed wrongly, the team debates it until reaching consent.Individuals are supposed to estimate items, with team input arriving only at the end. Hence the Bucket System is better suited to group members well-acquainted with estimating.
Ordering Method: For Skilled Teams
This method is a straightforward approach to observing items with one another and provides a clear picture of what needs to get prioritized. If co-located, the facilitator lines out the things randomly on a wall or table; if working remotely, the facilitator uses a digital whiteboard. The goal is to reorganize them from low to high priority. Then, each group member turns, moving an item up or down the line by one position. The movement gets determined by the amount of effort needed for that item compared to things on either side.
The ordering Method works better with a team proficient with estimating due to emphasis on individual decision-making.
Selecting The Right Fit
Any Agile expert or team head must lead their team through an effective prediction model. Group members can transform their subjective thoughts into measurable statistics that will assist map out every other project and allow leaders to assess success efficiently by assigning ratings to features or stories. It's a good idea to believe your team members' estimations for specific jobs because they'll be dependent on their expertise unless data from the past projects indicates otherwise.
Advise the team that being overly optimistic about estimates is unhelpful. At least one further estimation discussion is necessary if the expectations or requirements alter during the development lifecycle.
Which technique is ideal depends on the scope of the work and the team's strength, along with group members' knowledge with estimation.