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#NoEstimates - Stop lying to yourself and your customers, and stop estimating

After his successful session last year on Agile Scrum, our resident Scrum White Robe Gerard Beckerleg is at it again, except this time he's taking on one of the most divisive topics in software development: Estimation. In this video recorded at the Sydney SSW offices, Gerard Beckerleg takes a dive into the depths of this controversial topic and extracts the most interesting ideas and raises some very difficult questions about the big white elephant in the room that is Software Estimation. After examining the pros and cons of estimation Gerard lays the blueprint for a better way to help you and your clients get what they are really looking for.

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Do My Requirements
Look Big In This?
#NoEstimates

Gerard Beckerleg
Solution Architect

Live Backchannel: #NETUG #NoEstimates

Delivering Awesome Web Applications
“Is there is a way to work, where the software you write
ends up being valuable, and the business people you work
with end up being happy?”
Dan Milstein

"#NoEstimates is not about ditching estimates. It is about
improving the way we work such that estimates become
redundant.“
Neil Killick
About me



Gerard Beckerleg



Solution Architect at SSW





SSW Scrum White Robe
Agile
Automated testing
Continuous delivery
Do My Requirements Look
This?

BIG In
Agenda



Background



Why estimate?



Problems with software estimation



Are there any alternatives?



Discussion
#NoEstimates - Stop lying to yourself and your customers, and stop estimating
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#NoEstimates - Stop lying to yourself and your customers, and stop estimating

Editor's Notes

  1. What I am about to tell you is the result of my research into estimates over the passed couple of months
  2. ContextAgileSmall to medium green field project
  3. If we were to find out estimates have no value, what would we do?What problem do estimates solve, exactly? What other ways are there to solve the problem?Could time be spent doing other more valuable tasks?#NoEstimates is not about ditching estimates. It is about improving the way we work such that estimates become redundant.
  4. How to deliver as much value as much possible, within budgetHow to start generating positive cash flow before they run out of moneyAll value does not come at the end
  5. The ultimate developmentanti-patternThen we demand that the developers “estimate” when they’ll be done with all this stuff. They, too, know less about this product than they ever will again, and they don’t understand most of these requirements very well. But they do their best and they come up with a date. Does the business accept this date? Of course not! First of all, it’s only an estimate. Second, clearly the developers would leave themselves plenty of slack—they always do. Third, that’s not when we want it. We want it sooner.So we push back on the developers’ estimate, leaning harder and harder until we’re sure we’ve squeezed out all the fat they left in there. Sometimes we even just tell them when they have to be done.Either way, the developers leave the room, heads down, quite sure that they have again been asked to do the impossible. And the business people write down the date: “Development swears they’ll be done November 13th at 12:25PM.”
  6. Are you forgetting anything?
  7. How do you factor in the unknowns?
  8. Who is going to do the work?Can you estimate on behalf of other people?Do you average out across all team members or assign tasks?
  9. Individual performance varies by a factor of 10 or moreEffect of personnel factors on project effort. Depending on the strength or weakness in each factor, the project results can vary by the amount indicated—that is, a project with the worst requirements analysts would require 42% more effort than nominal, whereas a project with the best analysts would require 29% less effort than nominal.The magnitude of these factors from the Cocomo II model is confirmed by numerous studies since the 1960s that show 10:1 to 20:1 differences in individual and team performance (Sackman, Erikson, and Grant 1968; Weinberg and Schulman 1974; Curtis 1981; Mills 1983; Boehm, Gray, and Seewaldt 1984; DeMarco and Lister 1985; Curtis et al. 1986; Card 1987; Boehm 1987b; Boehm and Papaccio 1988; Valett and McGarry 1989; Boehm et al. 2000).
  10. Optimism.In a study of 300 software projects, Michiel van Genuchten reported that developer estimates tended to contain an optimism factor of 20% to 30% (van Genuchten 1991)
  11. Treating estimates as promises leads to conservative teams and disappointing results."When a measure becomes a target, it ceases to be a good measure.“Goodhart's law"As soon as a metric becomes a measure, it will be gamed. There are no exceptions.“ Ron Jeffries
  12. Estimates as a weaponDamage to the relationshipDamage to moraleEffect on future estimatesBlameExperience has taught me that "Waterfall" is code for "write everything down in a _RD doc nobody reads so we know who to blame“@Carnage4Life
  13. The effect on creativity(1945) Dunkers candle problemDan Pink: The puzzle of motivationhttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rrkrvAUbU9YYour job is to attach the candle to the wall so the wax does not drip onto the table
  14. Overcome functional fixedness, see the box as something else.Sam Gluxberg from PrincetonTop 25% $5 top 25$ nice motivator3.5 minutes longer, dulls thinking and blocks creativity. Repeated for 40 years.
  15. Carrot and stick If-then works with simple set of rules and clear goal.If then works with simple set of rules and clear goal.
  16. Great for 20th century tasks bad for 21st
  17. Is it better to over or underestimate?Reduced effectiveness of project plansStatistically reduced chance of on-time completionPoor technical foundation leads to worse-than-nominal resultsDestructive late-project dynamics make the project worse than nominal
  18. Single Point EstimatesSoftware estimates are routinely presented as single-point numbers, such as "This project will take 14 weeks." Such simplistic single-point estimates are meaningless because they don't include any indication of the probability associated with the single point. They imply a probability as shown in Figure 1-1—the only possible outcome is the single point given.
  19. Problem with ranges, add rule
  20. 1906 statistician Francis Galton observed a competition to guess the weight of an ox at a country fair. 800 entered. Galton, being the kind of man he was, ran statistical tests on the numbers. He discovered that the average guess (1,197lb) was extremely close to the actual weight (1,198lb) of the ox. This story was told by James Surowiecki, in his entertaining book The Wisdom of Crowds.
  21. Albert Lederer and Jayesh Prasad found that the most commonly used estimation technique was comparing a new project with a similar past project, based solely on personal memory. This technique was not found to be correlated with accurate estimates. The common techniques of "intuition" and "guessing" were found to be correlated with cost and schedule overruns (Lederer and Prasad 1992). Numerous other researchers have found that guessing, intuition, unstructured expert judgment, use of informal analogies, and similar techniques are the dominant strategies used for about 60 to 85% of all estimates (Hihn and Habib-Agahi 1991, Heemstra and Kusters 1991, Paynter 1996, Jørgensen 2002, Kitchenham et al. 2002).
  22. Most of us were taught to write down all our requirements at the very beginning of the project. There are only three things wrong with this: “requirements,” “the very beginning,” and “all.” At the very beginning, we know less about our project than we’ll ever know again. This is the worst possible moment to be making firm decisions about what we “require.”Ron Jeffries
  23. Suppose you're developing an order-entry system and you haven't yet pinned down the requirements for entering telephone numbers. Some of the uncertainties that could affect a software estimate from the requirements activity through release include the following:
  24. Misunderstanding requirements
  25. Anyone who has ever looked at a list of “requirements” has seen some items that were very important, and some that were—well—not so important. Not so important like 1/100th as important as the most important things. Not so important like downright bad ideas. There is a very strong “80-20” rule at work in requirements lists. The bulk of the value comes from a very small subset of the so-called requirements. So these other things aren’t “requirements” at all. They’re ideas, and some of them are not very good. How could they all be good? We made them up before we began the project, when we knew the least.
  26. "Requirements have a "best before" date and expire."
  27. Estimates drive a wedge between business and development
  28. Put uncertainty and risk at the centre of a conversation between the developers & the rest of the business
  29. Treating projects as experiments
  30. Ref book
  31. To not wait 9 months to deliver a solution but to deliver a solution in 1 month, then make it better.After each “iteration” we will not have a holistic view of what we’re building.
  32. They adjust their outlook frequently, and adjust what they work on next in accord with what is happening.
  33. Automate as much as possible
  34. There is so much to consider when we try and measure value. Aside from the empirical measure of monetary returns, we have to consider the needs of the customers, the stakeholders and our corporate strategy (to name but a few), not to mention the fact that all of these things change over time.Ferrari example
  35. The ultimate developmentanti-patternThen we demand that the developers “estimate” when they’ll be done with all this stuff. They, too, know less about this product than they ever will again, and they don’t understand most of these requirements very well. But they do their best and they come up with a date. Does the business accept this date? Of course not! First of all, it’s only an estimate. Second, clearly the developers would leave themselves plenty of slack—they always do. Third, that’s not when we want it. We want it sooner.So we push back on the developers’ estimate, leaning harder and harder until we’re sure we’ve squeezed out all the fat they left in there. Sometimes we even just tell them when they have to be done.Either way, the developers leave the room, heads down, quite sure that they have again been asked to do the impossible. And the business people write down the date: “Development swears they’ll be done November 13th at 12:25PM.”