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A Big Estimate is Not a Sum of Small Estimates

by George Dinwiddie, 18 January 2013 | The Agile Blogosphere

This post is from George Dinwiddie's blog by George Dinwiddie. Click here to see the original post in full.

I’m working with a client that has multiple, non-collocated component teams working on one project. It’s not my ideal situation, but we’re making the best we can of the situation.

We built a story map of business-oriented, project-level “epics.” These have been prioritized within business themes, and have been tentatively scheduled for development releases. The early ones have been estimated with level of effort (LOE). Basically these LOEs are Small, Medium, and Large, but given numeric scores to allow tracking project progress toward development releases from a business point of view using a burnup chart.

These project-level “epics” are broken down into component level “stories” for development. The component stories have their own acceptance criteria at the component boundaries, and are estimated by the component team doing the work. These estimates necessarily don’t use the same “units” as the business level estimates. There’s no way to make the estimates use a common “point” from team to team, much less comparable to the high-level ones. The component story estimates are used for tracking progress within each team’s sprint.

It’s not the most highly-tuned Agile process, but it’s pretty darn good for a project transitioning to Agile in a large organization used to a highly controlled,...

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