Estimating on an Agile project

If you’ve ever had any involvement with an Agile project (whether it was “pure” Agile or not), you’ll likely have encountered the beast which is effort forecasting and analysis.  This drives the initial estimate of the amount of work which your team thinks it can deliver within a given period.

Agile sprint
Example of a scrum style sprint

It doesn’t really matter how big your project is, sizing up the amount of work which can be produced is a time honoured tradition, but how do you know if you’re even in the ballpark of getting your estimates right?

Over at ThoughtWorks Studios, Martin Fowler (and others) have spent significant time and effort in trying to document some conclusions about this very topic and a PDF white paper can be found on the ThoughtWords Studios website.

It’s hardly a light read – at 32 pages – but can you really afford to take estimation lightly?  In a world of commercial agreements, balancing customer or client expectations and attempting to meet tight delivery timelines, getting your estimations accurate is a key step in delivery.

However, in my mind going into this document, it really helps to have a decent view of what it is you are trying to build.  The more uncertainty going into any kind of sizing or storyboarding exercise, the rougher the estimation or analysis is going to be. 

There’s no silver bullet, one-size-fits-all methodology at play here, however this document is a really good read if you are looking to canvass different views and opinions about how to set expectations around Agile delivery.  Be prepared to have your designs challenged, and to field changes as they can (and do) present themselves!

If you aren’t quite ready to dip into the minefield which is Agile planning and forecasting, perhaps you’d find value in another e-book from ThoughtWorks – “How do you develop a shared understanding on an Agile project?”.  Remember, for an Agile project to succeed, everyone needs to play their part – the methodology isn’t just for programmers!

For those who haven’t already gone to visit the ThoughtWorks website, here’s a direct link to the PDF.

Further reading:

I want to run an Agile project

To some an ‘Agile’ project means delivering value to a client or business more frequently than with other methodologies.  This can be achieved, with the right people, the right sponsorship within the right organisation which is open to the concept.

Other times, trying to run a successful Agile project will look a lot more like this clip below from YouTube

Unfortunately, this clip likely is a better representation of reality than we’d care to admit.

Without the appropriate buy-in from all stakeholders in a project, and acknowledgement that the Agile approach doesn’t necessarily align with more stringent or rigid processes and frameworks, an Agile approach simply won’t work.

If you want to know why, perhaps it’s worth reading the Agile Manifesto itself.  Believe it or not, behind all the hype, there’s real method to the principals of the manifesto – many of which fly in the face of more rigid and stringent “quality” measures.

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