Estimation in Scrum

By Eugenia Pérez | 17 February, 2013

So, you miss you years at University playing poker with your mates?

Estimation in Scrum has nothing to do with the traditional ways and methods that usually are followed by companies and teams under methodologies like waterfall or RUP. In fact, the whole process of developing software itself is radically different, but today I would like to talk only about tasks estimation.

Usually, how these things are done is following the up-to-bottom approach, in which some managerial role, such as a project manager, told the members of his team:

-”Well guys, this is what we have to do during the next X days/weeks/months. And I think that you will be able to do it all by that time. And obviously, I want high quality, testing, this, that, and this, and more of that, and yes, also much more of this”.

And what it is more, the more amount of time is he planning ahead, the less accurate this forecast is. So, it is clear that something has to change.

So what Scrum says is simple: Who are the ones who are going to do the work? Ok, the development team. So, why don’t we let them to give an estimation? Let’s try it.

Furthermore, the development team won’t be estimating hours of work. Why? Because no one could do it and do it right? It is a pure guess. No matter how much experience you have. In Scrum, we estimate the complexity of a task by giving points. So, if I this that a task is pretty straightforward, I will give it 1 point (for example). On the other hand, if my gut feeling is that I am facing a complex task, I will give it 13 points. This doesn’t mean that it is 13 times more difficult than the first one. It is only a taste. And every member of the team give his estimate at the same time. If they don’t converge, then they have to discuss until the agreement.

In this context, a technique that has been proven very effective is planning poker. In this game, every member of the team has the same cards, with numbers that mean complexity points. After a new item that needs to be done during the next spring has been discussed, and every one undestands it, all the members show his chosen card with the complexity they feel like at the same time. If it is the same, this item is assigned this complexity. If not, the team has to agree.

Playing poker planning is really cool. But I still miss my long hair. Oh, that’s hard stuff!

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