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I have worked with several clients who do detailed, task-level estimates (in hours). Or at least detailed story-level estimates (in Story Points or Person Days). And for most of them, their process seemed to work fine. From their point of view. But I always had the feeling that they didn’t realize their full potential. That there was some waste in their process. Of course, I also told them. They hired me as a consultant, after all.
Their answer (most of the time): “But we need those estimates!”
This, of course, begs the question…
Why Do We Need Those Estimates?
- So we know how far we are in the project and when it will be finished.
- Our customer needs them.
- So our PO can prioritize those features.
- So we can plan how to best utilize our "resources".
- We need them to write our fixed-price contracts.
There are probably more possible reasons. But those are all reasons I heard from real customers during real projects…
Each of those reasons seams reasonable. And I can somehow understand the teams and managers who come up with those reasons. But every one of those reasons comes with some problems.
As I have already written elsewhere, I am not “for” or “against” estimates. They are a tool that you can use well or badly. But I have experienced that estimates always come with a cost. Especially detailed, concrete, fine-grained estimates (like estimating the time a task will take in hours). And you have to be very careful to make sure that the benefit you get from estimates is really worth the cost.
To Be Continued...
I will write about the problems that come with the reasons above in the next few blog posts, and link them here.
And I am interested in your experience with detailed task-level or story level estimates.
- How detailed do you do them? Task-level, story-level, hours, story points, ...
- Why do you need them?
- How well do they work for you? How do you feel when giving a detailed estimate?
- Do you have any questions about detailed estimates?