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Why Agile Teams should do Software Estimates?

Software estimation plays a crucial role to let the teams have a better understanding of the stories, the required efforts, priorities, and expected outcomes.
January 28 · 4 min read
Importance of Software Estimation in the Present Era

As the world is shifting from the traditional waterfall approach to the agile-based development approach, there is a movement going on "#NoEstimate", which reflects that there is no need to have software estimation sessions now. There is a perception that agile development makes projects proceed in smaller development blocks, so why should anyone waste time on estimation sessions.

Software estimation does not mean "commitment", rather it facilitates "making commitments". In fact, it won't be wrong to call estimation a building block of the software development project in the present era. It is because the projects are becoming complex, customers' expectations are skyrocketing, and meeting deadlines is becoming more challenging. Software estimation helps the team to have a better bigger picture of the efforts and time parameters and orient their commitment accordingly. To reflect more on the importance of software estimation, this blog highlights 5 key valuable aspects/benefits of software estimation.

5 Valuable Aspects of Software Estimation

Software estimation has a lot to offer to agile teams. Here we are mentioning 5 valuable aspects of software estimation that every team no matter the size or project can readily extract from it:

1. Better Understanding

Since estimation highlights how much effort a story demands and the level of complexity, it helps the team and product owners have a better understanding of the whole scenario. For example, when team members read a story, they get a chance to understand the story and present their own individually projected effort and complexity level for that story. Sometimes such ideas are far apart, while sometimes they are close together. Both types of situations are very crucial for better planning and picking up important signals.

When the members' individual estimates are far apart, it highlights that members have a different understanding of the problem. Those members that are giving high estimates might be seeing some hurdles in the story completion that others are missing. Similarly, those members that are giving low estimates might know some tools or libraries that can help in quick story completion. So, even if the estimates are far apart, it gives the chance for the team to understand why there is so much deviation and then reach an effective consensus.

On the other hand, when the members' individual estimates are close to each other, it also offers valuable insights for better planning. For example, when all members estimate a story to be complex and difficult, then it's an indication that a story should be broken down into sub-stories. Similarly, when all members estimate a story to be easy and small, then it indicates that the whole team has a proper understanding of the story.

2. Failing Early

One of the beauties of the Agile development approach is its nature of failing early. Instead of facing product failures at the final stage, teams are able to identify failures during development stages due to continuous Sprint review sessions. This way, they can adjust and tackle the situation effectively and ensure smooth and faster product release.

Estimation plays a key role in facilitating the failing early ecosystem. In fact, we can call estimation the baseline for it. It is because a team cannot identify if it is headed to an unexpected issue if it does not know what outcome is expected. With estimation, a team knows what it is targeting to achieve and can easily identify unexpected complications.

Once an unexpected complication arises, the team will be prepared to face it beforehand. So, the members can quickly focus to tackle the situation and resolve it with minimal disturbance. Some of the common solutions include re-adjusting priorities, changing feature scope, increasing the deadline, purchasing new tools, etc.

3. Collaboration and Productivity

The estimation session brings members together for collaborative discussion on stories and lets them set priorities for the next Sprint. They can have a meeting session on-premises and use Planning Poker, T-Shirt Size, or other techniques to estimate. If they want to do a meeting session remotely, then they can opt for the Async Poker technique to do estimates.

Since members come from different educational backgrounds and experiences, an estimation session is a great place for them to showcase their knowledge and help the team better understand the stories. Other than team members, product owners or stakeholders can also join the estimation session to put their inputs as well. In short, estimation brings together team members and product owners and encourages an environment of collaboration and better decision-making.

Once the estimation part is done, every member of the team will become aware of what they have to achieve next. They will know the complexity of the stories, the required effort, and the projected time frame they have to complete the stories. This way, they can remain more focused and productive.

4. Adjusting the Plan Conveniently

Estimation facilitates greatly in the management of complex software projects. Usually, during software projects, there is mostly a story (probably a large story) that is crucial to be completed next, as other teams are dependent on it or it presents the core features. Similarly, there also exist some stories that are less important and can be delayed for accomplishing other stories. With estimation, the team and product owners know the size of stories and the time to complete them. Thereby, it helps them greatly when they have to adjust the plan and re-adjust their priorities.

5. Better Uncertainty Management

It would be no less than a miracle if a large software development project proceeds and completes exactly as planned. Usually, complex projects face many hurdles, such as unexpected complications, new features demand, budget constraints, etc. Accurate estimates increase the chances of delivering quality and on-time products, as the team is estimating what to achieve in the next week rather than focusing on big quarterly goals.

Besides that, estimation also includes some factors of uncertainty because it does not give any strict deadlines, rather it reflects the effort required to complete the story. So, even if a team faces some complications, it is still in a better position to tackle the situation effectively.

Wrapping Up

Software estimation is a must for agile teams in the current competitive era and complex software development process, but it should not be made a difficult, ineffective, or time-consuming activity. When estimation is done in the right way, it becomes a valuable resource for teams to have timely development and project delivery. Teams get a better understanding of what is expected from them, how much effort they have to put, what's the projected time frame to complete, and their resources limitation. In addition, estimation is also handy for managers to keep product owners or stakeholders on board and continuously present them the progress.

To sum up, agile methodology and software estimation is here to stay. So, what your organization has to do is use estimation to its full potential to get valuable insights it is meant to offer.

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