For August’s Stride Tech Talk, we talk with Johanna Rothman; author, Agile thought leader and management consultant, about why managers ask for estimates and what they need to know.
Why do managers ask for estimates? Managers ask for estimates because they want to know something about their ability to recognize revenue this year. How many projects can they release? What is the projected effect on revenue; customer acquisition and retention; and on service revenue (training, support, all that kind of service). We pay managers big bucks so they can project out for “a while” and plan for the business. What does an Agile approach of fast delivery/fast feedback cycle do for senior managers? It allows senior managers to change their questions. Instead of “When will this be done?” or “How much will it cost?” senior managers can ask, “When will I see the first bit of value? Can we turn that value into revenue? When can we capitalize the work? Those questions change the way teams and senior management work together. What else can teams do work together more collaboratively?
Work to a target. If the teams and the product owners know that management has a desired release date, they can work to it. Teams can track their feature flow through their systems, understanding their cycle time. They can use timeboxes for focus. They can measure how close to done they are with a product backlog burnup chart.
Demo as you proceed. Always demo to the product owners. Depending on the pressure for revenue/whatever, ask the senior managers to participate in the demo. That way, they can see the product’s progress as you add more features.
Keep the backlog item size small. It doesn’t matter how much is in the backlog if the size of every item is small. The smaller the backlog items, the easier it is for teams to estimate. It’s also easier for teams to maintain a flow of features into the ever-evolving system. Who knows? You might be done earlier than you expect.