Estimate Time for Agile Estimation

Agile estimates and planning are essential to a project. But a common mistake during rough release estimating is forgetting that the opportunity for a greater level of detail comes later.

If that point is missed, teams may struggle during the initial high-level estimates.

To avoid that problem, I suggest that at the beginning of a project, teams do a rough estimate of each requirement. One common estimating technique includes “planning poker,” also called Wideband Delphi.

In planning poker, each team member secretly picks a number representing how much effort or complexity they think is involved in a given requirement. The numbers then are revealed. The person with the highest value explains to the team why it is hard. The person with the lowest value explains why it is easy.

After no more than two minutes of discussion, the team votes again. This process is repeated until the team reaches a consensus or it discovers there is not enough information to estimate this requirement.

The problem arises when teams blur the focus between the low-level estimates for a two-week iteration and high-level estimates for the release. Low-level estimates are more precise because they split a requirement into several tasks, estimated in hours. By contrast, the high-level estimates are in more abstract relative “points.”

Some teams incorrectly attempt to identify predecessor dependencies in high-level estimates. They can also spend too long trying to refine the estimate or silo work between sub-teams to make two estimates for the same requirement.

This detracts from the goal of being able to estimate a large pile of requirements quickly and at the beginning of your project. Remember, there is plenty of time to deep dive later.

How long does it take you to estimate your project?

The views expressed within the PMI Voices on Project Management blog are contributed from external sources and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of PMI.

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