Praise for Agile Estimating and Planning
"Traditional, deterministic approaches to planning and estimating simply don't cut it on the slippery slopes of today's dynamic, change-driven projects. Mike Cohn's breakthrough book gives us not only the philosophy, but also the guidelines and a proven set of tools that we need to succeed in planning, estimating, and scheduling projects with a high uncertainty factor. At the same time, the author never loses sight of the need to deliver business value to the customer each step of the way."
—Doug DeCarlo, author of eXtreme Project Management: Using Leadership, Principles and Tools to Deliver Value in the Face of Volatility (Jossey-Bass, 2004)
"We know how to build predictive plans and manage them. But building plans that only estimate the future and then embrace change, challenge most of our training and skills. In Agile Estimating and Planning , Mike Cohn once again fills a hole in the Agile practices, this time by showing us a workable approach to Agile estimating and planning. Mike delves into the nooks and crannies of the subject and anticipates many of the questions and nuances of this topic. Students of Agile processes will recognize that this book is truly about agility, bridging many of the practices between Scrum and ExtremeProgramming."
—Ken Schwaber, Scrum evangelist, Agile Alliance cofounder, and signatory to the Agile Manifesto
"In Agile Estimating and Planning , Mike Cohn has, for the first time, brought together most everything that the Agile community has learned about the subject. The book is clear, well organized, and a pleasant and valuable read. It goes into all the necessary detail, and at the same time keeps the reader's burden low. We can dig in as deeply as we need to, without too much detail before we need it. The book really brings together everything we have learned about Agile estimation and planning over the past decade. It will serve its readers well."
—Ron Jeffries, www.XProgramming.com, author of Extreme Programming Installed (Addison-Wesley, 2001) and Extreme Programming Adventures in C# (Microsoft Press, 2004)
" Agile Estimating and Planning provides a view of planning that's balanced between theory and practice, and it is supported by enough concrete experiences to lend it credibility. I particularly like the quote 'planning is a quest for value.' It points to a new, more positive attitude toward planning that goes beyond the 'necessary evil' view that I sometimes hold."
—Kent Beck, author of Extreme Programming Explained, Second Edition (Addison-Wesley, 2005)
"Up-front planning is still the most critical part of software development. Agile software development requires Agile planning techniques. This book shows you how to employ Agile planning in a succinct, practical, and easy-to-follow manner."
—Adam Rogers, Ultimate Software
"Mike does a great follow-up to User Stories Applied by continuing to provide Agile teams with the practical approaches and techniques to increase agility. In this book, Mike provides time-proven and well-tested methods for being successful with the multiple levels of planning and estimating required by Agile. This book is the first to detail the disciplines of Agile estimating and planning, in ways that rival my 1980 civil engineering texts on CPM Planning and Estimating."
—Ryan Martens, President and Founder, Rally Software Development Corporation
"With insight and clarity, Mike Cohn shows how to effectively produce software of high business value. With Agile estimation and planning, you focus effort where it really counts, and continue to do so as circumstances change."
—Rick Mugridge, Rimu Research Ltd., and lead author, Fit for Developing Software (Prentice Hall, 2005)
"Finally! The groundbreaking book my clients have been clamoring for! Agile Estimating and Planning demystifies the process of defining, driving, and delivering great software that matters to the business. Mike's clarity, insight, and experience leap out through every page of this book, offering an approach that is relevant and immediately useful to all members of an Agile project."
—Kert D. Peterson, President, Enterprise Agile Group, LLC
"This isn't yet another generic book on Agile software development. Agile Estimating and Planning fills a gap left by most of the other books and gives you important, practical, down-to-earth techniques needed to be successful on Agile development projects."
—Steve Tockey, Principal Consultant, Construx Software
"Estimation, planning, and tracking is a trinity. If you don't do one of them, you don't need the other two. This book provides very practical knowledge for estimation, planning, prioritizing, and tracking. It should be compulsory subject matter for project managers and their teams, even if they hesitate to call themselves Agile."
—Niels Malotaux, Project Coach
"Effective planning is an important, but often misunderstood, part of any successful Agile project. With Agile Estimating and Planning , Mike Cohn has given us a definitive guide to a wide range of Agile estimating and planning practices. With his clear and practical style, Mike not only explains how to successfully get started planning an Agile project, but also provides a wealth of tips and advice for improving any team's Agile planning process. This book is a must-read for managers, coaches, and members of Agile teams."
—Paul Hodgetts, Agile coach and CEO, Agile Logic
"Mike's writing style captures the essence of agility-just the right amount of information to bring clarity to the reader. This book provides an excellent guide for all Agile practitioners, both seasoned and novice."
—Robert Holler, President and CEO, VersionOne, LLC
"It is as if Mike took the distilled knowledge regarding planning and estimation of a great Agile developer (which he is) and laid out all he knows in an easily understandable manner. More importantly, he has a great mix of concepts with real-world examples finished off with a case study so the reader can relate the information to their own situation. Unless you are already an expert Agile planner and estimator, this book is for you."
—Alan Shalloway, CEO, Senior Consultant, Net Objectives, and coauthor of Design Patterns Explained, Second Edition (Addison-Wesley, 2005)
"Although I had plenty of XP experience before trying out Mike Cohn's Agile planning practices, the effectiveness of the practical and proven techniques in this book blew me away! The book recognizes that people, not tools or processes, produce great software, and that teams benefit most by learning about their project and their product as they go. The examples in the book are concrete, easily grasped, and simply reek of common sense. This book will help teams (whether Agile or not) deliver more value, more often, and have fun doing it! Whether you're a manager or a programmer, a tester or a CEO, part of an Agile team, or just looking for a way to stamp out chaos and death marches, this book will guide you."
—Lisa Crispin, coauthor of Testing Extreme Programming (Addison-Wesley, 2003)
"Mike Cohn does an excellent job demonstrating how an Agile approach can address issues of risk and uncertainty in order to provide more meaningful estimates and plans for software projects."
—Todd Little, Senior Development Manager, Landmark Graphics
"Mike Cohn explains his approach to Agile planning, and shows how 'critical chain' thinking can be used to effectively buffer both schedule and features. As with User Stories Applied, this book is easy to read and grounded in real-world experience."
—Bill Wake, author of Refactoring Workbook (Addison-Wesley, 2003)
"Mike brings this book to life with real-world examples that help reveal how and why an Agile approach works for planning software development projects. This book has great breadth, ranging from the fundamentals of release planning to advanced topics such as financial aspects of prioritization. I can see this book becoming an invaluable aid to Agile project managers, as it provides a wealth of practical tips such as how to set iteration length and boot-strap velocity, and communicate progress."
—Rachel Davies, Independent Consultant
"There has been a need for a solid, pragmatic book on the long-term vision of an Agile Project for project managers. Agile Estimating and Planning addresses this need. It's not theory—this book contains project-tested practices that have been used on Agile projects. As Mike's test subjects, we applied these practices to the development of video games (one of the most unpredictable project environments you can imagine) with success."
—Clinton Keith, Chief Technical Officer, High Moon Studios
"When I first heard Mike Cohn speak, I was impressed by a rare combination of qualities: deep experience and understanding in modern iterative and Agile methods; a drive to find and validate easy, high-impact solutions beyond the status quo of traditional (usually ineffective) methods; and the passion and clarity of a natural coach. These qualities are evident in this wonderful, practical guide. I estimate you won't be disappointed in studying and applying his advice."
—Craig Larman, Chief Scientist, Valtech, and author of Applying UML and Patterns, Third Edition (Prentice Hall, 2005) and Agile and Iterative Development (Addison-Wesley, 2004)
" Agile Estimating and Planning is a critical guide on how to successfully provide value to customers of IT services. This book is filled with clear examples that are essential—from project team members to the executive level."
—Lou Thomas, Director, Applications Development, Farm Credit Services of America
"This work is deeply significant in that it articulates and details structured techniques to realize a simple, but profound insight—planning is an iterative quest for value, rather than a perfunctory scheduling of activities. Mike presents processes to converge on this value while reducing risk and uncertainty, supporting decision making, establishing trust, and conveying information. Agile methodologies have shifted the emphasis from plans to planning, but have glossed over many of the finer details of Agile planning. Now, very simply and accessibly, Mike demonstrates how it can be done."
—Sanjiv Augustine, Practice Director, Lean-Agile Consulting at CC Pace, and author of Managing Agile Projects (Prentice Hall, 2005)
"The techniques described in Agile Estimating and Planning have helped us tremendously with planning and managing our projects. It provides all you have ever wanted to know about Agile project management."
—Roman Pichler, Engineering Manager, Siemens Communications
"Mike Cohn presents a highly pragmatic and logical approach to making projects successful in a world beset by uncertainty and change. With his trademark clarity and directness, Mike cuts through the management mumbo jumbo to present practical techniques that can be put into use immediately. Put the odds squarely in your favor by making Mike Cohn the planning guru on your next big project."
—Pete Deemer, Vice President, Product Development, Yahoo!
"This book distills the fundamental ideas behind Agile estimating and planning, presenting them in a thoughtful and approachable manner. This is a 'must-have' book that presents clear, unambiguous, and practical advice for anyone who wants to successfully manage modern software development projects."
—Scott W. Ambler, President, Ambysoft Inc.
"How do your projects go? Frustrating changes? Uncertainty? Product missing both the mark and the deadline? With insight and clarity, Mike Cohn shows how to effectively produce software that is of high business value. With agile estimation and planning, you focus effort where it really counts, and continue to do so as circumstances change."
—Rick Mugridge, Rimu Research Ltd., and lead author of Fit for Developing Software
"We are true believers in the agile methods described in this book, and have experienced a substantially positive impact from their implementation and continued use. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in making their software development more practical and effective."
—Mark M. Gutrich, President and CEO, Fast 401k, Inc.
Detailed, Proven Techniques for Estimating and Planning Any Agile Project
Agile Estimating and Planning is the definitive, practical guide to estimating and planning agile projects. In this book, Agile Alliance cofounder Mike Cohn discusses the philosophy of agile estimating and planning and shows you exactly how to get the job done, with real-world examples and case studies.
Concepts are clearly illustrated and readers are guided, step by step, toward how to answer the following questions: What will we build? How big will it be? When must it be done? How much can I really complete by then? You will first learn what makes a good plan-and then what makes it agile.
Using the techniques in Agile Estimating and Planning , you can stay agile from start to finish, saving time, conserving resources, and accomplishing more. Highlights include:
- Why conventional prescriptive planning fails and why agile planning works
- How to estimate feature size using story points and ideal days—and when to use each
- How and when to re-estimate
- How to prioritize features using both financial and nonfinancial approaches
- How to split large features into smaller, more manageable ones
- How to plan iterations and predict your team's initial rate of progress
- How to schedule projects that have unusually high uncertainty or schedule-related risk
- How to estimate projects that will be worked on by multiple teams
Agile Estimating and Planning supports any agile, semiagile, or iterative process, including Scrum, XP, Feature-Driven Development, Crystal, Adaptive Software Development, DSDM, Unified Process, and many more. It will be an indispensable resource for every development manager, team leader, and team member.
About the Author
Mike Cohn is the founder of Mountain Goat Software, a process and project management consultancy and training firm. With more than twenty years of experience, Mike has been a technology executive in companies ranging from start-ups to Fortune 40s, and is a founding member of the Agile Alliance. He frequently contributes to industry-related magazines and presents regularly at conferences. He is the author of User Stories Applied (Addison-Wesley, 2004).
Read an Excerpt
This book could have been called Estimating and Planning Agile Projects. Instead, it's called Agile Estimating and Planning. The difference may appear subtle, but it's not. The title makes it clear that the estimating and planning processes must themselves be agile. Without agile estimating and planning, we cannot have agile projects.
The book is mostly about planning, which I view as answering the question of "What should we build and by when?" However, to answer questions about planning we must also address questions of estimating ("How big is this?") and scheduling ("When will this be done?" and "How much can I have by then?").
This book is organized in seven parts and twenty-three chapters. Each chapter ends with a summary of key points and with a set of discussion questions. Because estimating and planning are meant to be whole-team activities, one of the ways I hope this book will be read is by teams who meet perhaps weekly to discuss what they've read and the questions at the end of each chapter. Because agile software development is popular worldwide, I have tried to avoid writing an overly United States-centric book. To that end, I have used the universal currency symbol, writing amounts such as ¤500 instead of perhaps $500 or €500 and so on.
Part I describes why planning is important, the problems we often encounter, and the goals of an agile approach. Chapter 1 begins the book by describing the purpose of planning, what makes a good plan, and what makes planning agile. The most important reasons why traditional approaches to estimating and planning lead to unsatisfactory results are described in Chapter 2. Finally, Chapter 3 begins with a briefrecap of what agility means and then describes the high-level approach to agile estimating and planning taken by the rest of this book.
The second part introduces a main tenet of estimating, that estimates of size and duration should be kept separate. Chapters 4 and 5 introduce story points and ideal days, two units appropriate for estimating the size of the features to be developed. Chapter 6 describes techniques for estimating in story points and ideal days, and includes a description of planning poker. Chapter 7 describes when and how to re-estimate, and Chapter 8 offers advice on choosing between story points and ideal days.
Part III, "Planning for Value," offers advice on how a project team can make sure they are building the best possible product. Chapter 9 describes the mix of factors that need to be considered when prioritizing features. Chapter 10 presents an approach for modeling the financial return from a feature or feature set and how to compare financial returns so that the team works on the most valuable items first. Chapter 11 includes advice on how to assess and then prioritize the desirability of features to a product's users. Chapter 12 concludes this part with advice on how to split large features into smaller, more manageable ones.
In Part IV, we shift our attention and focus on questions around scheduling a project. Chapter 13 begins by looking at the steps involved in scheduling a relatively simple, single-team project. Next, Chapter 14 looks at how to plan an iteration. Chapters 15 and 16 look at how to select an appropriate iteration length for the project and how to estimate a team's initial rate of progress. Chapter 17 looks in detail at how to schedule a project with either a high amount of uncertainty or a greater implication to being wrong about the schedule. This part concludes with Chapter 18, which describes the additional steps necessary in estimating and planning a project being worked on by multiple teams.
Once a plan has been established, it must be communicated to the rest of the organization and the team's progress against it monitored. These are the topics of the three chapters of Part V. Chapter 19 looks specifically at monitoring the release plan, while Chapter 20 looks at monitoring the iteration plan. The final chapter in this part, Chapter 21, deals specifically with communicating about the plan and progress toward it.
Chapter 22 is the lone chapter in Part VI. This chapter argues the case for why agile estimating and planning work and stands as a counterpart to Chapter 2, which describes why traditional approaches fail so often.
Part VII, the final part, includes only one chapter. Chapter 23 is an extended case study that reasserts the main points of this book but does so in a fictional setting.
Table of Contents
About the Author xvii
Foreword by Robert C. Martin xix
Foreword by Jim Highsmith xxi
Foreword by Gabrielle Benefield xxv
Part I: The Problem and the Goal 1
Chapter 1: The Purpose of Planning 3
Why Do It? 5
What Makes a Good Plan? 8
What Makes Planning Agile? 9
Discussion Questions 10
Chapter 2: Why Planning Fails 11
Planning Is by Activity Rather Than Feature 12
Multitasking Causes Further Delays 15
Features Are Not Developed by Priority 17
We Ignore Uncertainty 17
Estimates Become Commitments 18
Discussion Questions 19
Chapter 3: An Agile Approach 21
An Agile Approach to Projects 23
An Agile Approach to Planning 27
Discussion Questions 32
Part II: Estimating Size 33
Chapter 4: Estimating Size with Story Points 35
Story Points Are Relative 36
Discussion Questions 41
Chapter 5: Estimating in Ideal Days 43
Ideal Time and Software Development 44
Ideal Days as a Measure of Size 46
One Estimate, Not Many 46
Discussion Questions 47
Chapter 6: Techniques for Estimating 49
Estimates Are Shared 51
The Estimation Scale 52
Deriving an Estimate 54
Planning Poker 56
Why Planning Poker Works 59
Discussion Questions 60
Chapter 7: Re-Estimating 61
Introducing the SwimStats Website 61
When Not to Re-Estimate 62
When to Re-Estimate 64
Re-Estimating Partially Completed Stories 66
The Purpose of Re-Estimating 67
Discussion Questions 67
Chapter 8: Choosing between Story Points and Ideal Days 69
Considerations Favoring Story Points 69
Considerations Favoring Ideal Days 72
Discussion Questions 75
Part III: Planning for Value 77
Chapter 9: Prioritizing Themes 79
Factors in Prioritization 80
Combining the Four Factors 86
Some Examples 86
Discussion Questions 89
Chapter 10: Financial Prioritization 91
Sources of Return 93
An Example: WebPayroll 96
Financial Measures 102
Comparing Returns 108
Discussion Questions 109
Chapter 11: Prioritizing Desirability 111
Kano Model of Customer Satisfaction 112
Relative Weighting: Another Approach 117
Discussion Questions 120
Chapter 12: Splitting User Stories 121
When to Split a User Story 121
Splitting across Data Boundaries 122
Splitting on Operational Boundaries 124
Removing Cross-Cutting Concerns 125
Don't Meet Performance Constraints 126
Split Stories of Mixed Priority 127
Don't Split a Story into Tasks 127
Avoid the Temptation of Related Changes 128
Combining Stories 128
Discussion Questions 129
Part IV: Scheduling 131
Chapter 13: Release Planning Essentials 133
The Release Plan 134
Updating the Release Plan 138
An Example 139
Discussion Questions 143
Chapter 14: Iteration Planning 145
Tasks Are Not Allocated During Iteration Planning 147
How Iteration and Release Planning Differ 148
Velocity-Driven Iteration Planning 149
Commitment-Driven Iteration Planning 158
My Recommendation 162
Relating Task Estimates to Story Points 163
Discussion Questions 166
Chapter 15: Selecting an Iteration Length 167
Factors in Selecting an Iteration Length 167
Making a Decision 171
Two Case Studies 173
Discussion Questions 176
Chapter 16: Estimating Velocity 177
Use Historical Values 178
Run an Iteration 179
Make a Forecast 181
Which Approach Should I Use? 185
Discussion Questions 186
Chapter 17: Buffering Plans for Uncertainty 187
Feature Buffers 188
Schedule Buffers 189
Combining Buffers 198
A Schedule Buffer Is Not Padding 199
Some Caveats 199
Discussion Questions 201
Chapter 18: Planning the Multiple-Team Project 203
Establishing a Common Basis for Estimates 204
Adding Detail to User Stories Sooner 205
Lookahead Planning 206
Incorporating Feeding Buffers into the Plan 208
But This Is So Much Work 210
Discussion Questions 211
Part V: Tracking and Communicating 213
Chapter 19: Monitoring the Release Plan 215
Tracking the Release 216
Release Burndown Charts 219
A Parking-Lot Chart 224
Discussion Questions 226
Chapter 20: Monitoring the Iteration Plan 227
The Task Board 227
Iteration Burndown Charts 230
Tracking Effort Expended 231
Individual Velocity 232
Discussion Questions 233
Chapter 21: Communicating about Plans 235
Communicating the Plan 237
Communicating Progress 238
An End-of-Iteration Summary 241
Discussion Questions 245
Part VI: Why Agile Planning Works 247
Chapter 22: Why Agile Planning Works 249
Replanning Occurs Frequently 249
Estimates of Size and Duration Are Separated 250
Plans Are Made at Different Levels 251
Plans Are Based on Features, Not Tasks 252
Small Stories Keep Work Flowing 252
Work in Process Is Eliminated Every Iteration 252
Tracking Is at the Team Level 253
Uncertainty Is Acknowledged and Planned For 253
A Dozen Guidelines for Agile Estimating and Planning 254
Discussion Questions 257
Part VII: A Case Study 259
Chapter 23: A Case Study: Bomb Shelter Studios 261
Day 1—Monday Morning 262
Estimating the User Stories 270
Preparing for Product Research 281
Iteration and Release Planning, Round 1 284
Two Weeks Later 302
Planning the Second Iteration 303
Two Weeks Later 305
Revising the Release Plan 305
Presenting the Revised Plan to Phil 308
Eighteen Weeks Later 312
Reference List 313
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Better planning, as Mary Poppendieck (author of 'Lean Software Development') points out, results in a higher standard of living for the individual, for the team, and for the organization. With 'Agile Estimating and Planning', Mike Cohn delivers a beautifully pragmatic approach for pushing us into the notion that this higher standard of living is completely attainable for our software development projects in this lifetime. Mike's earlier book, 'User Stories Applied' has been one of my most cited books when working with teams new to agile software development. Understanding the usefulness of the story concept as the base unit of function delivery has put these new teams in a good steady stride for being realiably realistic about their work delivery toward feature completion. With Mike's 'AE&P', I now have a fully referenceable guide that moves the team story planning pragmatics to the next level: bringing multiple planning approaches to bear at multiple levels for multiple measures of software feature acceptance and completion. In his usual style, Mike delivers his guidance with wonderfully accessible non-software analogies. For example, 'How long is a football game?' and 'How long will it take me to move my pile of dirt?' for understanding the distinction between effort (or ideal hours/days)and duration (total calendar hours/days). These simple mental models set the stage for ruthlessly correcting the many misunderstood atrributes of planning and its life partner estimating. Having shattered the myths of task-based Gantt Charts, PERT charts, and Work Breakdown Structures as completely repeatable prediction models for planning and estimation, Mike rebuilds the planning toolbox with practices that truly work. He buoys his practices (such as Planning Poker and frequent replanning) with the de rigueur reinforcements of appropriate metrics (e.g. how many tests did we complete in the last iteration, how many story points did we complete in our worst iteration, how are we tracking today with our estimates of what is left to do) that really guide teams in how to steadily improve their planning acumen. Because my passion in agile software development has focused more and more on the importance of participatory decision-making in order to make planning commitments stick, I am particularly grateful that Mike sets a high collaborative bar with regard to how team's must work in order to create effective and actionable plans. Guidance on collaboration, high visibility, and continuous inspection are woven into all the practices in Mike's book, start to finish. If I can leave you with only one piece of advice from 'AE&P', take Mike's 'Dozen Guidelines for Agile Estimating and Planning' (Chapter 22) and nail them to your team's door. In fact, nail them to your business partner or product manager's door. If you allowed me a second piece of advice: read through his excellent case study that follows in Chapter 23. And then, if you forgave me one final piece of advice: be prepared to start enjoying your new standard of living.
As a software program manager, I'm always looking for ways to improve my estimates. Regardless of what you build, you need to make sure the project you are building is the right thing and delivering it at the right time. You need to be predictable, both on a short-term and long-term basis. You need to be accountable and have data to back your estimates. This book will help you with all of the above. I have found that the techniques described in this book not only helped our team in improving our estimates, they also helped with stakeholder communications, predictability and improving overall product quality. You and your team should be able to read this book and walk away with new techniques that can be practiced and implemented on day one. If you stick to your guns, you will see immediate results. As a scrum coach inside our company, this book is a great addition to my 'must read list'. Truly a great read.