Estimation is quite challenging to master, but a crucial part of the Agile methodology. As a business owner or manager, it’s your responsibility to estimate the work and plan ahead.
But not everyone is good at it, so we try to make estimates because they help us shape the rough idea of what the future might look like and meet deadlines. Even if you fail at estimating the workload, your team will still find value in the process of getting on the same page. If you practice proper agile estimation techniques, there is still a chance to make everything right, and we are going to show you how.
Why do we estimate in Agile?
If the majority of us are bad at estimates, why bother at all? It’s important to mention that this motion is only relevant in the context of a stable team with a known measured velocity.
Numerous teams aren’t that great at agile estimates, leading leaders and team members to reject this process altogether. Keep in mind that estimating can work, but only if you know why you are doing it. It all comes down to developing a shared understanding of requirements and solutions. Even when you face a problem, that’s not an estimating problem but a shared understanding problem, and you have to get to the bottom of it to fix it.
We can’t give up estimating - we have to get better at it, which further implies that we need to create a shared understanding. In our opinion, shared understanding is the primary reason why we estimate. Giving up this motion means giving up your business or any future projects that might come along the way.
What Scrum says about estimates
In scrum projects, the estimation phase is conducted during the sprint planning meeting. Its goal is to consider user stories for the sprint, prioritize them, and deliver them during the time box of the sprint.
The product owner must ensure that prioritized user stories are concise and that they can be subjected to estimation. Since the scrum team is responsible for delivering product increments, they should choose user stories for the sprint based on the required efforts and product increments.
We have to point out that an estimate helps us guess what can be achieved and when. In some situations, estimates are crucial. For instance, they help your team work on a new design when the primary expert is out of the office. Or when we need to sort out our priorities or choose the best option among several of them.
Project Management Methodologies and Frameworks
When it comes to Scrum, it doesn’t require you to use any estimation technique, like poker planning, focus factor, story points, and so on. Scrum only establishes the basic rules of the game and ensures teams have the freedom to select estimation techniques.
Remember that estimation is teamwork, and you don’t have to do it alone. It involves everyone, deployers, testers, designers, developers, and others. Each team member offers a new perspective on the work and product necessary to deliver a user story. While you don’t have to use them, estimation techniques significantly facilitate your work and guide you in the right direction.
Estimation techniques in Scrum
New teams have difficulty estimating work items since they are unfamiliar with requirements and don’t know which solutions to apply. However, over time, they get used to products, develop an inner sense of how they will approach the stories and how much effort is required for completion.
We are relatively good at estimating items in most cases, but some things are impossible to predict. That’s why many people resort to scrum estimation techniques. We are going to name a couple of them to help you better understand the entire concept.
The problem with an estimate is that it can be widely inaccurate before any work starts. Even if we are talking about the same team and same project, estimates can be quite unrealistic, especially if you fall into the trap and think, “we’ve done this before; it should be easy.”
That’s why a three-point estimate is so beneficial. In this case, you get to apply three values: optimistic, pessimistic, and most likely estimate. You will get the most accurate number by adding up the values and dividing them by three.
The planning poker estimation technique is more suitable for a few items. Every team member gets cards, has to discuss the requirements, and submits their best estimates anonymously.
This discussion will continue until a consensus is reached. Keep in mind that planning poker is perfect for ten or fewer tasks and no less than eight people.
When it comes to t-shirt estimates, you will mostly pick XS, S, M, L, and XL sizes to estimate your agile project. Why do you think this method is so successful? It helps teams develop critical thinking while distracting them from the standard unit of time. With this approach, you think outside the box while helping your team members compare items objectively.
Relative Mass Valuation
When agile becomes a new technique for your team, more often than not, you will be faced with a large backlog of stories waiting to be estimated all at once. However, estimating individual stories can be quite daunting.
That’s why relative mass valuation is an efficient and quick way to go through a massive backlog of stories and estimate them all at once. We could say that this is one of the fastest scrum estimation techniques because it follows the “divide and conquer” concept.
In most cases, this is considered a decision–making tool and not an actual estimation technique. But, if you want to estimate a few items, dot voting can be pretty easy and super simple.
Every person gets a few dots and uses them for voting. To point out the size of an item, more dots mean bigger. This is a common technique for agile coaching.
When you apply ordering protocol, items are placed randomly and labeled on a scale: “low” or “high.” Each person needs to make a move, and this move involves changing the position of an item by one spot higher, one spot lower, passing, or talking about an item. The order is done if everyone passes.
The most accurate estimation technique
Hardly anyone can tell you which estimation technique is the most accurate, since most depend on the situation and project. In our opinion, to achieve optimal results, you need to be familiar with your project to apply the most appropriate technique.
Only in this way will you accomplish desired results. For instance, if you deal with a large backlog of stories, the most accurate estimation technique will be a relative mass valuation and for a reason.