Speaker – Manoj Vadakkan – Agile Project Management Estimation and Planning

There was a Time Before Agile:

  • Before Agile most shops “gathered” requirements from the beginning of the process
  • Requirements sign-off was always a moving target.
  • Iterative development was always at the end.
  • To solve all these problems we needed “Heroes” who could deliver what the customer really wanted, but they would always get burnt out.
  • UAT usually was an afterthought and usually left behind in the development process and estimation was done long before the work was even initiated.

“The actual work always took longer to do than estimated.”

Taking baby steps towards Agile:

  • Start small with baby steps in fixed sprint length
  • Run tests after each iterations
  • Start estimation through user stories
  • Get customer feedback

Manoj uses the following Estimation Techniques for User Stories:

  • Planning Poker – Developers get together with a deck of cards to estimate stories together
  • T-shirt sizing – Lead developer t-shirt sizes first
  • Ordered piles – Product Owner takes cards one at a time and explains them and then orders them into complexity

Manoj defines “Velocity”

“Velocity is how many story points a team can complete within an iteration.”

How do you average your velocity?

  1. Take out outliers (highest and lowest velocity #)
  2. Take best velocity (after outliers taken out)
  3. Take lowest velocity (after outliers taken out)
  4. Have conversation with your customer around the lowest and best velocity after taking out the outliers.

What Agile Scout liked about Manoj’s experience:

  • Starting with small steps
  • Use what was working already and make small improvements at a time.
  • Team collaboration
  • A cross-functional team comes up with the estimates together
  • The team establishes the baseline for estimation points
  • Talking with your customer about velocity after going through a velocity exercise explained above.

Some great questions for Manoj:

Question: “If you are new to a team, how would you get educated on what a story point is?”

Answer: “If you have a new team working with story points, use a familiar story that everyone is knowledgable about and use that as context for a story point. Take the next story and ask whether it is half as much or double.”

Question: “Why would you use story points and not hours?”

Answer: “We are trying to figure out about how long stories will take, make adjustments over time, and estimate how much can go into an iteration. These are relative points.”

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