Vacationeer’s Guide: Estimation

In order to calculate velocity, we need to know how to figure out the amount of effort involved for each feature that a team works on. Before we can get to that, though, we need to determine something else which is crucial. Who, exactly, should be estimating the effort?

Let’s start by identifying the major players here. We have users, clients, managers, leads, analysts, and the implementation team.

Let’s start with the easy ones. The users and clients really wouldn’t have any idea of how much effort it would take. Sure, they have an idea of the benefit, which relates to the ROI, but not the effort. That leaves us with the rest of the actual team.

Who among the rest of the team would know how long it takes to build something? The people doing the building. Who does that not include? Managers, analysts, and maybe leads depending on their role. The implementation team knows how long it takes to build things, because they’re the ones building it in the first place. They may not know, however, what it is that their building. That’s where the analysts, leads, and most importantly, users and clients, come in. They are there to help the implementation team understand the features so they can give a good estimate on the effort involved.

One thing of note here that might not be so obvious is how does the estimation get done? Let’s say you have 3 people on your implementation team. Do you assign Feature A to team member X and ask X how long it’s going to take to do A? No. The reason you don’t do this is simple. Why is surveying so popular? Because statistically speaking, if you perform a survey correctly, you can be relatively confident in the results of the survey. Or in other words, the more people that are willing to say “Feature A is going to take X long”, the more confident you can be that those people are correct. If I asked my entire team of 10 members, and you asked only 1 member of your team, which estimate do you think we would be more confident in? That’s not to say that it would be right, but it’s more likely to be right.

Is it as simple as getting everyone together and going over the features and just saying how long it’s going to take? Well, not exactly.

We also need to talk about our credit system.