Thursday, November 26, 2009

Agile estimating and planning review

Agile Estimating and Planning by Mike Cohn is a masterpiece on Agile management techniques, especially in dealing with schedules and application features. I just finished reading it and it gave me a very positive perspective on classical development conundrums like schedule and scope.
Agile does not solve problems for us, nor promises to eliminate every issue. The 300+ pages cover the majority of the topics in the, like the title says, estimation and planning field for an Agile team. The author writes in an honest style and anticipate reader's questions and objections.
There are many concepts scattered trough the book:
  • The Agile planning approach: we don't know much at the start of a new project, but after every iteration we get to know more about the domain and the application. Thus, we can improve our estimation of remaining work, while changing scope and release dates to deliver the maximum value. So we should keep planning, but be ready to throw away the plans.
  • Estimating size and estimating time are two different processes: velocity is the parameter that links them. Size is described by different, relative variables than actual time needed (like story points or ideal days).
  • What's a story point? And a release burndown chart? We often use Agile terms without referencing read formal definitions and they can seem mumbo jumbo to the uninitiated developer. Actually, Agile is not complicated if you take a bit of time to learn; you probably already know nearly all of the math involved in this book, but a glance at probability theory could help.
  • Tools like questionnaires and charts for tracking progress explained from the ground up. Back at the first chapter, I had not an Agile theorical foundation, but I still found the book exciting to read and very accurate.
  • Common practices for stories management can help you to mix up, split and join user stories. Estimation can be a difficult process but in this context it is not a random guess.
  • Prioritization of stories, along with iteration and release planning: the 1,000 and 10,000 feet views on your project life and scope.
  • Plenty of practical examples are spreaded throughout the chapters, and the author reports how to implement the techniques described in a real project, by consistently taking a swimmer statistics management application as the main example. This consistency helped me to get the overall picture.
  • Finally, a fictional case study is presented at the end of the book, to pull all things together and see an Agile project worked out from the initial requirements gathering to the deliver date.
After having read this book, every project now seems a big opportunity to apply an Agile approach. I strongly recommend it if you want to get started with story points, iteration and other great Agile concepts.


Anonymous said...

Genial brief and this fill someone in on helped me alot in my college assignement. Gratefulness you as your information.

Sudheer said...

Looks interesting

Anonymous said...

Well I agree but I about the post should prepare more info then it has.

Alexia Marthoon said...

nice post