Measurements in Agile vs. Predictive Projects (3)–Agile Measurement and Estimation

This post will conclude my comparison of measurement of progress on projects in a traditional environment (using earned value analysis–contained in the first post) with measurement on projects in an agile environment (covered in the second post and this one).

Summing up the last two posts, as opposed to a predictive measurement system like earned value analysis that focuses on the completeness of the work, an agile measurement system will have the following characteristics:

  • It will focus on customer value added.
  • It will focus on quality (the correctness of the work), so that a feature is considered finished not when the team has done the work, but after the team has tested it and the customer approves.

Here are some additional features of agile measurement of progress on a project.

  • The chunks of work being measured are made smaller, so that people are more likely to deliver on it.
  • Product development involves a learning curve as well as delivery of value to a customer.   By keeping the work increments small, this allows for more feedback from a customer, which loops back to the team and causes them to improve on the next work increment.
  • Rather than trying for a heroic pace to get done as quickly as possible, a steady pace is preferred that allows enough time to get the work done correctly.

The “steady pace” referred to in the last point above is important for the purpose of estimation.   A sponsor who wants to know when a project will be completed will be best served by a steady pace of work, because this will allow a simple calculation of

The number of remaining story points/remaining number of story points done per iteration.   With 500 story points remaining and 50 done on average per iteration, you can tell the sponsor with confidence that you will be able to get the project done in 10 iterations.   If each iteration is two weeks, let’s say, then you can see it will be done in 20 weeks.

This post reviewed the characteristics of agile measurement and estimation.   The next posts will go into the details of this type of measurement based on the material on pages 62-70 of the Agile Practice Guide.


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