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Agile Estimation and Planning (That Doesn't Suck)

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In many organisations, planning has become an end in itself, the accumulation of Points the driving force. More and more time is being spent wrangling over estimates, and for what? Plans aren’t becoming more accurate, reliable or valuable.


The first step is admitting we have a problem. We’ll explore some good (and not so good) reasons to estimate and plan. We’ll talk about the limitations and common abuses of the Story Points / Velocity approach.


I’ll then introduce you to a more powerful, reliable and nuanced approach to forecasting your future progress with Monte Carlo simulation. You’ll have a better idea of where you’re headed, and you can even retire your planning poker cards and leave long estimation sessions behind.

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Agile Estimation and Planning (That Doesn't Suck)

  1. 1. Agile Estimation and Planning (that doesn’t suck) Craig Drayton @craigdrayton
  2. 2. think sharp elabor8
  3. 3. think sharp elabor8 Why are we estimating again? So we can monitor deviations from the planned scope and schedule? So we can measure performance, and hold people to account?
  4. 4. think sharp elabor8 Agile planning has gone horribly wrong.
  5. 5. think sharp elabor8 Two genuinely useful reasons to forecast Make investment decisions Based on our best estimates of value, cost and risk, should we do this thing? When should we do it? Meet date expectations Are we likely to deliver by a date that matters to us? If I find out that we’re not, I can take action.
  6. 6. think sharp elabor8 Estimation and forecasting: The least interesting thing about building a product Do you practice incremental delivery - you’re working on small batches in iterative cycles, maximising feedback while limiting cost and risk? Do you have modern Product Management practice - you’re driven by outcome (not output), and you’re prototyping and experimenting to discover what works? … well, just keep doing that!
  7. 7. think sharp elabor8 Oh, you’re still here? If estimating cost and forecasting delivery dates is important to you, there’s good news… … there are ways to do it that don’t suck.
  8. 8. think sharp elabor8 What is forecasting, anyway? Forecasting is using past data, to calculate the likelihood of future outcomes, assuming that the future looks like the past. The most popular agile forecasting method today: Estimating in Story Points, Forecasting based on Velocity.
  9. 9. think sharp elabor8 What’s wrong with velocity? Average October day in Melbourne: Cloudy, light winds, high of 19.7° 4 October 2016 in Melbourne:
  10. 10. think sharp elabor8 Monte Carlo Simulation 1. Start recording the time that you complete each work item. 1. Calculate how much time passed between each successive completion (‘Takt time’) 1. Marvel at your newfound ability to predict the future
  11. 11. think sharp elabor8 Monte Carlo Simulation 4. Simulate your progress through your backlog. NOW Backlog 18 Days
  12. 12. think sharp elabor8 Monte Carlo Simulation 5. Do this thousands of times. NOW 18 Days 15 Days 21 Days 18 Days 20 Days
  13. 13. think sharp elabor8 Monte Carlo Simulation 5. Calculate the proportion of simulation runs that finish on or before each date. This is the probability of completion by that date.
  14. 14. think sharp elabor8 But what about estimation??
  15. 15. think sharp elabor8 Do all my stories need to be the same size?
  16. 16. think sharp elabor8 Know why you’re forecasting. Misuse of forecasting is harmful. If you forecast using an average value, you’ll be wrong half of the time. Forecasting only works if your future is similar to your past. Key takeaways
  17. 17. think sharp elabor8 OK, how do I get started? People have built spreadsheets that do the math & simulation for you: ● https://goo.gl/EaJjFr ● http://bit.ly/SimResources Or, talk to me about getting a free beta account with Mazzlo, a predictive analytics and forecasting app for agile delivery. craig@mazzlo.co
  18. 18. elabor8.com.au Thank you!

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