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8 Agile Estimating Methods

by Srinivas Saripalli

Agile estimating methods are concerned with determining the amount of time and effort needed to accomplish each item on the prioritized backlog to better plan the sprints. It’s not always easy to grasp estimates. How can a corporation anticipate how long it will take to finish a product backlog item so far in advance? “What strategy do they have in place to deal with unforeseen obstacles? An agile estimation technique can be of great assistance in this situation.

As a part of the daily grind, projections include anything from Agile project cost estimates to delivery time estimates. Without realistic budget and time estimates, the project is likely to go awry.

The likelihood of being outcompeted rises when a company does not devote time and resources to completing reliable forecasts of their product’s delivery date.

Instead of winging it, it’s a good rule of thumb to put some thought into which Agile estimating approaches to use rather than just guessing. As a result, a company looking to develop a new product should familiarise itself with agile narrative estimation approaches.

Managing product backlogs, conducting efficient backlog grooming sessions, and improving sprint planning are all made easier using the most popular agile estimating methodologies, which will be discussed in this article.

What is Agile Estimation?

Prioritized tasks are estimated in the product backlog using the Agile estimation technique. This effort is frequently measured in terms of the time it will take to finish that task, which, in turn, leads to more accurate sprint planning.

A Sprint is a short period. A sprint is a defined period for completing a given task.

The effort required to finish a user story in Agile is still an estimate, no matter how accurate a business’s projections are of the required effort. The requirements can alter at any time, so don’t strive for perfection inaccuracy. Anti-patterns and other developing realities can potentially disrupt the trajectory of evolution.

Story points can also be used to estimate the amount of time it will take to complete a task. As part of the agile development process, story points are assigned to quantify the difficulty of implementing a particular user story. Relative units are used to compare distinct user stories that require an estimate.

For the most part, it’s just a way to quantify the complexity of creating a successful user story. Complexity, danger, and effort are just a few of the factors that might make a project tough to complete.

Agile project estimation is also a great way to establish a strong team. Agile project estimation can give you an idea of how long it will take to complete a project if it is dependent on another project (Y).

What’s the Purpose of Estimation?

  • Holding teams accountable for their deliveries, which is made possible by agile estimations.
  • Making the Agile group more disciplined
  • Estimating the time needed to complete a project
  • Making it possible to better handle sprints
  • Increasing the efficiency of the group

In Agile, why do teams estimate?

Agile development teams are prone to both overestimation and underestimation, resulting in a wide range of development and launch durations. Agile estimating, despite its complexity, may help with accurate user story estimations and keep the team on track to meet deadlines for deliverables.

Agile estimation methodologies have several direct advantages, some of which are as follows:

1. Improved Ability to Make Decisions

Backlog grooming sessions will be more effective if the development team has accurate, agile estimations. This will allow for more accurate sprint planning. Their user story delivery time will improve if they make informed decisions and plans.

2. Improved Cohesion

Suppose that the projected time to complete user narrative A is two weeks. User story B, on the other hand, requires an estimated effort of four weeks. Assume, for the moment, that the two user stories are interdependent and linked. If this is the case, the team will need to set priorities so that both user stories can be finished at the same time, improving cooperation across the various teams.

3. Improved Control of Risks

Many software projects have a hard difficulty meeting their deadlines and budgets. Agile project estimating is a great way to mitigate this risk. Agile product estimating aids in the estimation of story points and the adherence to budgets, estimates, and the scope of the project. Better estimations mean a higher likelihood of timely completion and high-quality output.

The Short Discovery Phase of Agile Estimating Methods

A project’s scope is constrained when it begins. As a result, a brief product discovery phase should be implemented in order to deal with this issue. Agile methodology’s core principle is to break down needs into small batches, which is established during the discovery phase.

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Depending on the project’s intricacy, this can take anywhere from two to four weeks to complete.

The detailed process covers the following elements:

1. Stakeholder Interviews

When the discovery team assigns a Business Analyst (BA), he or she goes over all the information that was initially supplied and looks for any holes or unanswered questions. Later, BAs meet with key stakeholders to discuss and resolve any issues with the system workflow that may have arisen.

The business and functional requirements are derived from these workshops: The BRD outlines the project’s end goal and defines the scope of the endeavour.

Requirements Specification: This document specifies the characteristics that must be included in an application to accomplish the desired outcome.

These courses can either be held over the phone or in-person, depending on the client’s preference.

2. Determine the Product Backlog at the Highest Level

A Technical Architect and a Business Analyst are now involved in Agile Estimation. They use a workable solution or product to establish an initial conclusion that stakeholders are seeking.

Epics and tale titles are used to describe the bare bones of the application in a high-level product backlog. They then check to see if the backlog covers the client’s needs.

3. Get to Know your Clients and Potential Customers Better

For the exploration phase, the BA and a UX design anchor are brought on board, depending on the complexity of the challenge to be solved. The primary goal of a UX analyst is to have a thorough understanding of not only the client but also their target audience.

Personas of potential users, the ecosystem in which the personas will be utilizing the application, and the touchpoints of user personas within the system are all considered by a UX analyst. Ecosystem maps, personas, user journeys, and storyboards would be the outputs expected here.

4. Set Requirements in Order of Importance

After the stakeholder validates the high-level backlog, the discovery team joins the agile cost estimating project and gets to work on it.

Analyses and prioritization methods are used together to determine which requirements should be completed first, which should wait, and which should be eliminated. Items in the backlog are categorized according to the MoSCoW technique, which breaks down features into must-haves, should-haves, and possibilities.

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Image Source: Project Cubicle

1. The MVP Backlog Should be Prepared at this Step.

The BA prioritises the backlog requirements based on the prioritisation activity, and then categorises them into the MVP Development requirements.

A few items from the “should have” list may find their way into the MVP backlog, ensuring that the final product is as competitive as possible in the market.

This step may be bypassed depending on the budget and time to market, in which case agile teams will immediately begin work on building the finished product.

2. Estimate the Project’s Costs and Timelines

Estimates of MVP backlog size are used by the discovery team to determine an initial release’s expected cost and time to market.

Building and repeating this process until they get a final estimate that is appropriate for the company’s needs is then the next step. In addition, this provides the ability to load and unload features as the product development process gets underway.

Using Agile Story Point Estimation to its Full Potential

In the Agile estimation technique, the story points approach leverages historical data to compare elements of prior, similar projects in order to generate a precise estimate.

With story points, the estimating process is as follows:

  • Identify the user stories
  • Discuss the user story’s requirements. Question and answer sessions are a product owner or business analyst’s job, depending on which role they fill.
  • Estimates can be made by creating a matrix Each item of work is rated numerically using the estimate matrix. Fibonacci (…5, 8, 13, 21, 34…) or linear (… 3, 4, 5, 6, 7…) scales can be used for this.
  • Using the Fibonacci scale is preferred by many teams because of the larger gaps between numbers. This makes it easier to see how the values assigned to the different jobs differ.
  • Select a method of estimating that is more agile
  • In order to ensure that the estimates are consistent and fit with the stories, conduct sprint planning

Sprint Velocity: What is it?

In a sprint, the velocity of an individual team can be measured.

Sprint Velocity Estimation

During a single sprint, a team’s sprint velocity is the total number of story points they can finish. Sprint velocity cannot be determined until after the first sprint has been completed.

However, by looking at the team’s past performance, it is possible to forecast its future velocities (i.e., keeping track of how many story points were completed in a previous sprint). As a data count, the total number of story points accomplished, and the team’s real sprint velocity can be employed. Determine how many sprint cycles are needed to complete the project.

Software Project Estimation Methods: What are the Best Approaches to Doing This

Estimation is critical to making progress in the Agile development process. Agile estimate strategies that are commonly used include the following:

  1. Planning Poker

Playing cards with numbers on them are used to estimate an object’s value. Each of the cards (sizes 2 to 10) represents a valid estimate, which is allocated around the team. It’s possible to get a card reading like this: 0, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 20, 40, and 100. Now that the product owner or analyst has described the user story to the team, the team can ask any questions they have about it.

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Image Source: Planning Poker

In order to arrive at an estimate, each member of the team secretly chooses a card number. The final estimate for the topic under consideration is the one having the most votes on it. In the event of a disagreement over an estimate, a meeting is called, and a new round of voting is conducted in order to reach a consensus.

Developing Poker Use Cases:

  • There are only a few things to consider.
  • Building consensus among team members,
  • doing late-stage estimations,
  • and giving top priority to backlog items

2. Use of analogy

Analogies with other stories’ lengths are used to estimate story lengths in Agile. When generating assumptions important to agile estimations, this technique to relative sizing comes in handy.

User story A has already been estimated for two weeks by a corporation. They will now give a higher estimation number to a user story B if it is twice as large as a user narrative A.

The triangulation approach is a popular analogy-based Agile estimate technique. The triangulation method compares the user story’s intent to those of other previously estimated user stories.

Using an estimate of eight is a smart method if the tale is larger than the story estimated at six-story points but smaller than the story estimated at ten.

3. Calculate Your T-Actual Shirt’s Size

T-shirt sizes are estimated in conventional t-shirt sizes in this Agile estimation technique (i.e., XS, S, M, L, and XL). As a more informal but imaginative technique, numbers can be assigned to each user story that falls within one of the different t-shirt sizes.

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Image Source: http://www.deltamatrix.com/agile-estimation/

XS stories are typically smaller and less time-consuming than XL stories, which are larger and more time-consuming.

Use cases for estimating t-shirt sizes include:

  • performing rough estimations,
  • introducing the team to Agile estimation,
  • dealing with big backlogs, and
  • performing estimations at an early stage.

4. Voting with Dots

A handy Agile estimation method for a limited number of user stories, dot voting allows for quick and accurate estimations. Simple to put into action, and highly beneficial results can be expected after doing so.

All user tales, including descriptions, are written on post-its and placed on the wall or board for the team to vote on. As a means of voting, kids are given four to five dots in the form of stickers (pencils or markers may also be used to produce dots).

Dot Voting in Agile Teams Builds Consensus

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Image Source: LUCIDSPARK-Dot Voting

Well-established teams, managing enormous backlogs & Estimating a lower number of items are examples of Dot Voting use case.

5. Mapping Affinity Relationships

Agile affinity estimate can be used when the backlog is modest and the team is small. Steps involved in affinity mapping include:

a. A Quiet Measurement of Size

As in the previous stage, two cards are placed in opposing corners of a wall or a board (one is named Smaller and the other Larger). Afterwards, each participant receives a subset of the product owner’s products and is asked to measure each one on their own.

The product owner is available to answer any queries that attendees may have. If a product backlog item is too complex, it is removed from the fold and placed on its own.

Five to twenty minutes are needed to complete this exercise.

b. the Wall’s Edits

It is possible for team members to shift items from one spot to another in step two. During the specified twenty to sixty minute period, members of the team can also discuss the design and implementation aspects. The activity can be closed if there is little or no conversation among the team members.

c. The Correct Placement of Items

Members of the team begin by arranging the things in a logical order and then discussing their findings. In this case, the relative item size can be estimated using techniques like the Agile sizing method, the Fibonacci sequence, and others.

d. The Right of the Product Owner

Product owners should address discrepancies in estimations and additional features and requirements of an item with the team before generating final estimations, if possible.

e. Export to the Project Backlog Management Tool

The product owner can preserve the finalised estimations by exporting them to a product backlog management solution in this final step.

With Affinity Mapping, you may use it to estimate a long-term plan for your project, gain a better knowledge of your team, and run early estimates.

6. Estimation using the Bucket System

This Agile estimation method is superior to planning poker when it comes to estimating a large number of items (50-500). 0 through 200 are represented by the 0 through 200 buckets (cards) that are arranged in this manner (and more, if required). The user stories (items) are then placed in the buckets at the discretion of the estimators.

To begin, pick a random object and place it in a new bucket. Pick another user story, examine its features and requirements with the team, and place it in the bucket that best fits the team’s comprehension. Make sure you stick to the same routine.

Using the Bucket Theory to Estimate an Agile Project

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Image Source: AgileDigest

Use Case scenarios for the system

  • Estimating a huge number of objects
  • Enabling rapid estimations with the bucket system
  • estimating long-term initiatives is a new concept for the team

7. Method of the Three Points

This strategy considers the best-case, worst-case, and most-likely scenarios in a recursive fashion. In order to arrive at the final estimate, we must take the average of each of these estimates.

The following parameters are used to measure time and effort in this method:

  • (O) If everything goes according to plan, how much time and effort will it take?
  • (P) Perceived Time/Effort (T/E): How much time and effort will it require if things go wrong?
  • (M) How feasible and practical is it that the task will be completed within the given time frame?

Methods for calculating the average include:

  • The team is new to Agile estimating
  • Running later-stage estimations
  • There are highly prioritised backlogs that need to be prioritised

8. Story Point Estimation with the Fibonacci Sequence

Some teams use the Fibonacci sequence as a scoring scale. There are two numbers in this sequence that are the total of the preceding two numbers in the series- 0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55… and the linear sequence is- (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, etc.).

This has its advantages. In the course of reading a story, it’s far easier to determine whether it’s a 5, 8, or 13 than it is a number between 4 and 15. The group is more likely to come to an agreement in a shorter period of time.

Each member of the team will have to discuss the project in detail before making a decision on which estimate is the most appropriate to forward with.

However, the choices are still limited. A tale, for example, could be estimated as requiring more than 34 hours of work, but not more than 55 hours. This scale has the potential to be inaccurate in situations like this.

To estimate huge and complex activities, utilise the Fibonacci Sequence • To prevent estimates from growing too close to one other • Are concerned about the estimate accuracy

Agile Estimation Activities Involve Whom?

A product owner or scrum master alone should not adopt agile estimate approaches. Better estimates are the result of teamwork, so everyone on the Agile development team should participate.

This is due to two factors:

  • Any member of the team can be given a task to finish. In most cases, the item gets assigned when it is at the very top of the product backlog. All members of the team should be involved in order to ensure that they are aware of the user story’s requirements and the estimated time frame.
  • Be careful not to underestimate or overestimate the challenge. The team’s expertise and retrospective sessions help grasp the item’s inherent value and what it will take to finish a user narrative. Accurate estimates can be avoided with the help of everyone’s input during the estimation process.


A variety of Agile estimating strategies assist the development team in anticipating the time needed to fulfil a user story. Better estimation planning increases the likelihood of achieving a speedier time-to-market.

No work item should take more than 16 hours of effort to complete. Break down massive user stories (epics) into smaller, more manageable jobs and restart estimation if necessary if it goes above that limit.

An excellent place to start is with a look back at the past. If anything isn’t adding up to productivity, the team can use historical projects or sprints to assist them to predict near-accurate narrative points.

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