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Struggling to Deliver Sprints on Time?

Here Are 5 Ways to Give More Accurate Time Estimates

Your time estimate is your promise to the client. If you do not keep it, you will lose their trust.

Here’s how sprint planning used to happen in my team: we’d plan a sprint and have some rough estimates. If we couldn’t complete the tasks within the sprint, we’d simply take them to the next sprint. We’d also take some user stories from iteration to iteration.

We didn’t have clearly defined deliverables and there were no visible improvements when it came to the product or the team’s productivity.

We realised that there were mistakes both in the process and in our individual attitudes towards organising the workload. So, we decided to change our ‘customised’ approach to scrum and try to do it properly, by the book.

These are my main takeaways in terms of improving delivery time estimates:

1. Every team member must pitch in their time estimate

The mistake many team members make is to assume that they do not have a say or should not bother participating in tasks such as estimating delivery times. But then, when the deadline approaches, they announce that they never thought the time estimates were realistic.

By making everyone contribute their time estimate, every team member takes on the responsibility of delivering on their promise.

2. Break the story down to smaller tasks

It is easier to estimate times for a particular task than for the entire story. Your team members will intuitively know how much time a particular task would take, while estimating stories would require them to research, reflect on past experiences and calculate.

Estimating stories by breaking them down into smaller tasks is, therefore, not only more accurate, but also much quicker.

3. Set an internal deadline

In a real-world scenario, tasks tend to take more time than we think they would.

Strive to have a project deadline which is for the team only. It is important that all team members take this deadline seriously.

The client deadline should be later than the internal deadline, so that the team is likelier to meet it.

4. Use your planning tools diligently and to their full capacity

Project Management Tools

Estimating and reporting time in your project management tool regularly can significantly improve your performance in the long-run. You will be able to revisit your past tasks and evaluate the real time it took you to complete them, as well as identify bottlenecks. These will help you make better time estimates in the future.

Calendar Scheduling

Use your calendar to plan your daily workload. This will help you account for any impediments to your delivery (such as long lunch or lounge breaks, meetings and similar).

5. Never skip sprint retrospective

It is not realistic to expect that each team member would have the same time management and organisation skills.

Sprint retrospective is the perfect opportunity to discuss what went well and what went wrong in the last sprint and help the entire team get better organised for the next one.

Another very effective scrum practice are the standup meetings. Carrying these out effectively will not only help you with time estimates, but they will also reflect on your team’s overall performance.



07 / December / 2015 Sprint, Agile, Scrum by Dinuka Jayaweera

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