Tuesday, March 29, 2016

No estimates?

Agile Estimating and Planning
Arriving very late at the #NoEstimates discussion I did some catching up on reading about it. There is a lot of interesting talk and thinking going on under the heading of #NoEstimates. Woody Zuill and Neil Killick are two of the most vocal proponents. The basic idea, as I understand it, is that it is possible to do small chunks of work incrementally, leading as rapidly as possible to a desired shippable product, and that when you do that there is no need to do much of anything in the way of estimating stories or the project.

This is a great idea. I agree with it in certain context and situations. There are many reasons to support this idea. Lean principles generally lead to a continuous one-piece model of production flow. Kanban approaches generally limit work in process, and for small teams the ideal limit seems to be one. Neither of these approaches has any need to estimate how long something will take. Instead, they measure how long things take, in “cycle time”, and use that to make such predictions as are necessary.

At the other hand there are numerous ways estimations (on a project level) are used by businesses and they will not dissapear soon.

- Allocating budgets to projects (i.e., estimating the effort and budget of each project)
- Making cost/benefit decisions at the project/product level, which is based on cost (software estimate) and benefit (defined feature set)
- Deciding which projects get funded and which do not, which is often based on cost/benefit
- Deciding which projects get funded this year vs. next year, which is often based on estimates of which projects will finish this year
- Allocating staff to specific projects, i.e., estimates of how many total staff will be needed on each project
- Making commitments to internal business partners (based on projects’ estimated availability dates)
- Making commitments to the marketplace (based on estimated release dates)

For anybody who wants to hear both sides of the story, and at the same point of time get some insight into two great minds in the software devlopment industry I would urge you to read (and view) the discussion between Steve McConnel and Ron Jeffries. The articles are sorted from last to first.

- Ron Jeffries: Summing up the discussion (revised)
- Ron Jeffries: Estimation and Steve McConnell (Again)
- Steve McConnel: 17 Theses on Software Estimation
- Ron Jeffries: Continued Discussion with Steve McConnell
- Steve McConnel: #NoEstimates - Response to Ron Jeffries
- Ron Jeffries: Steve McConnell on #NoEstimates
- Steve McConnel: #NoEstimates - Video

Posted on Tuesday, March 29, 2016 by Henrico Dolfing