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Agile Estimating From The Beginning

Jeff Storey
Ranch Hand

Joined: Apr 07, 2007
Posts: 230
Hi, I'm a software developer working an agile project and I came into this project in the middle of it, so I never got to see what happened (such as scheduling) at the beginning of the project. Anyway, I've been doing a lot of reading on creating a product backlog using story points, and one of my questions is, how do we translate that to actual time without going into too much detail up front? Inevitably, at the beginning of the project (or even if I am writing a proposal for a new project), someone will ask, "How long will this take?" I understand that it's impossible to give an accurate estimate that early on, but I have to give some estimate? Should I start trying to estimate what our velocity will be based on previous projects? And what if it's a new project? Any thoughts?
John Farden

Joined: Jan 29, 2008
Posts: 8

I think this is a complex topic. The best book I know on the topic is the one from Mike Cohn "Agile Estimating and Planning" (


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Jeff Storey
Ranch Hand

Joined: Apr 07, 2007
Posts: 230

Thanks for that thought. I had actually already ordered that book and I'm getting ready to read it. Thanks!

Ilja Preuss

Joined: Jul 11, 2001
Posts: 14112
I know of three basic approaches to the problem:

- estimate in ideal time and apply an arbitrary factor between e and pi (for example 3)

- estimate in whatever unit you are used to and use past experience with similar projects and/or teams to guess how that translates to real project time

- after estimating the project, develop two or three representative features, and use that experience to extrapolate the duration of the whole project

Especially the first approach works stupendously well.

The soul is dyed the color of its thoughts. Think only on those things that are in line with your principles and can bear the light of day. The content of your character is your choice. Day by day, what you do is who you become. Your integrity is your destiny - it is the light that guides your way. - Heraclitus
Jeff Storey
Ranch Hand

Joined: Apr 07, 2007
Posts: 230
Thanks Ilja. You'd think by now us developers would multiply our own estimates by 3 so we can estimate correctly. If only we weren't so optimistic...
I agree. Here's the link:
subject: Agile Estimating From The Beginning
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