Estimating how much effort a task will take to be completed can be tricky. It gets near to impossible in the context of an innovation project where brand new features are built from scratch. That might be the reason for teams that skip estimation sessions in favor of doing some 'real work.' In the end, estimations can fail, so why do them anyway?
However, we think that estimating is not senseless when done right, as it can help better plan your sprints. It is also a golden opportunity to consider all collaborators' perspectives on the work items that are part of the sprint backlog. Check out the following ideas and take full advantage of Agile estimations.
Topics to check
- Before the estimation session
- Popular estimation techniques
- Pick your tools
- Involving the whole team
Before the estimation session
Work discussions are senseless unless there exists an agenda. The same happens with estimating sessions: Before the meeting takes place, people should already be familiar with the tasks they will discuss, the tools they use to keep communication and work flowing, as well as who will be the team members working on each area or phase.
Make sure you always consider the following elements beforehand:
Remember that the Scrum Master or Project Manager should already have the list of user stories and sub-tasks for the sprint. These sets of items are selected during a Backlog Grooming process. The Product Owner (PO) and some team members discuss and define the work to deliver in a specified period based on relevance and potential added value.
We recommend the chosen team members to represent each area to ensure a smooth and productive first discussion. Also, these representatives should be specialists in their respective fields.
Speaking about defining a solid backlog, our in-house developed Scrum Poker helps you quickly build one with its Agile Dashboard, letting all set for your estimating discussion to happen. This nifty app can also import Jira and Confluence issues to assess your story points on them. It is simple to use and saves time.
Popular Estimation techniques
Voting is a central part of the estimation session, where the team decides how many points a story will have. Remember, story points are a relative measure of how much effort a story can take to be delivered, and there are several techniques to aid you in the process. As mentioned at the start, when you face a task that cannot be compared to anything done in the past, it can be almost impossible to estimate its related effort.
We think these three techniques can get you through any estimation session and get real value from it:
Pick your tools
Physical whiteboards and post-it notes are a thing of the past if you consider the growing trends of remote and hybrid work. You need state-of-the-art tools that help you reduce issues, such as group thinking and context shifting, that harm productivity. That said, Atlassian develops great platforms for Agile management, such as Jira or Confluence, where you can handle any project with a broad arsenal of features.
Scrum Poker for Jira or Confluence already has everything you need for running engaging and practical estimation sessions with accuracy, so you can plug and play with it. Check how it works in the following video:
Involving the whole team
If you want to get accurate estimates, you must reach a consensus, so naturally, discussion plays a vital role during the session (We have written about discussions being pivotal for remote teams before). By analyzing all possible scenarios related to a user story, your estimates can be more accurate. But only the people working on the story should vote. Remember: Participation is excellent, but time is precious.
Another potential issue to prevent is letting Scrum Masters or managers vote or influence others' voices. Since managers are responsible for the release dates of the product, this fixation on time can cause them to vote with low estimations, putting the project at risk. They should only act as facilitators, incentivizing discussion and collaboration within the team.
It is also helpful to record your estimates and enable anyone in your team to check on them quickly. Scrum Poker is designed to help you keep track of all your estimates for further consideration, empowering you to keep improving your planning from sprint to sprint.
Those are the most valuable tips we think will help you pull out better estimations on your stories. Remember that planning is key to success and Agile estimating sessions are a great way to dig deeper on it, considering all kinds of contexts, so your projects are always delivered on budget. Feel free to share these insights with your collaborators and friends to help them level up!
Are you adopting or looking to improve your Agile practices? Is your team remote? If your answer to any of these questions is ‘yes’, you should check out our products for distributed teams. We focus on making communication more effective and easier for remote teams.
Check out our tools:
- Retrospectives for Jira & Confluence
- Scrumpoker for Confluence
- Freshdesk + Trello
- Freshservice + Trello
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