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Topics: Agile, IT Project Management, Quality
Do we estimate in Agile or Speculate??
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In traditional project management Estimation is the done based on the available deliverable information (which is always not sufficient), previous experience, accumulated expertise of various estimation techniques and considering future risks. However it has been observed that even after careful estimation almost always projects overrun estimates. Because whatever you do, you cannot come up with sustainable estimates for several months’ long project and it is inevitable to get into situation during execution you will not be able to visualize at the beginning for a longer duration project.

Agile came as a savior but somehow teams are unable to get rid of mystic phenomena of estimation. Most of the teams pretend to follow agile, yet they involve in estimation exercise and end up with similar situation as in traditional project execution. The reason behind it is that they might have started iterations in delivery; using agile software’s like Jira, however in their mind they are still traditional. Fear of failure hinders innovation and they end up with same results even after following Agile. They become Agile by infrastructure but not by mind set.

The good news is that in agility we have a magical idea of RELATIVE SPECULATION (considering team is self-organizing) which if practiced can provide a powerful solution to the estimation puzzle.

Agility allows us at first to speculate and execute and then adapt. It may sound very pleasing to hear but it is tough to implement, because it needs change in mind set.

Speculation by definition is forming of a theory or conjecture without firm evidence or investment (of time and resources) in the hope of gain but with the risk of loss. It clearly states that we do not have enough information right now and there are/may be risks as well. This is very much true for any project at the beginning. We will gain more insight as we proceed so we go ahead with these speculations and discover more information in future. We will retrospect and adapt after certain time (generally end of iteration) and based on the new information speculate again. We will continue following this cycle till the time we observe some stability and do the needful to improve upcoming iterations.

This understanding helps us to work with full freedom without fearing risk because even the highest risk is for small period of time and if we fail it will be an early failure with less impact.

This notion allows us to explore new ways to add value to deliverable and at the same time sheds the burden of commitment, there were none.

It the traditional project management we get chance to observe lessons learnt at the end of project and those learning’s never contribute to the project if we do not have any subsequent phase of the project. Agile provides us opportunity to retrospect after every completed iteration and take corrective or preventive actions at the start of successive iteration with the leverage to make new mistakes. This freedom inculcate intention for excellence and over the time makes process and product stable which in turn win confidence of customer and team.

In traditional project management we estimate entire project and come up with delivery schedule. There are lots of factors which are generally missed knowingly or unknowingly in the begging and they often surface during execution. As commitment is big (several months) and delivery starts late in the life cycle which if not as expected results in dissatisfaction and increase chances of failure. In agile commitment is smaller and delivery is faster and even if fail loss of efforts and money are considerably smaller.

To follow this practice we only do not need to learn few new things but also have to unlearn lot of things in order to succeed.

Please share your thoughts...
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I totally agree with you on the point that there needs to change in the mind set while implementing Agile. And for that all the companies claiming to follow agile are more or less going back to the old traditional waterfall method or some kind of hybrid methodology that suits there need and is within everyone’s comfort zone. Agile is not a magic wand that would solve everyone’s project management problem overnight; and as you have rightly mentioned it takes time to get to some level of stability wherein one can be confident enough to predict and estimate, and that too, again, not to precise 100% level. The things that get better over the time is one’s ability to better understand team’s capability in terms of what, how and when the delivery can happen.
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Estimation is speculation. A number is assigned given the understanding, capability, and assumptions at that particular moment in time. At times there is historical data or experiences to bolster confidence in the number.

A benefit of smaller buckets of work is the more frequent inspection and adaptation opportunities to allow the process of estimating, or sizing, to mature in real-time.
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we forecast to our best knowledge based on facts and learned experience.
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1 reply by manish bhadauria
Mar 30, 2019 5:07 AM
manish bhadauria
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Correct Sir, but that is still a forecast. It has been proven by various studies that long term project miserably failed due to traditional approach. Short term speculation is the best bet for a long term project. If we have to fail let's fail early. We all get smell where we are heading to.
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Andrew took the words right out of my mouth: "Estimation is speculation."
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Mar 29, 2019 4:31 PM
Replying to Peter Ambrosy
...
we forecast to our best knowledge based on facts and learned experience.
Correct Sir, but that is still a forecast. It has been proven by various studies that long term project miserably failed due to traditional approach. Short term speculation is the best bet for a long term project. If we have to fail let's fail early. We all get smell where we are heading to.

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