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This book could have been called Estimating and Planning Agile Projects. Instead, it's called Agile Estimating and Planning. The difference may appear subtle, but it's not. The title makes it clear that the estimating and planning processes must themselves be agile. Without agile estimating and planning, we cannot have agile projects.
The book is mostly about planning, which I view as answering the question of "What should we build and by when?" However, to answer questions about planning we must also address questions of estimating ("How big is this?") and scheduling ("When will this be done?" and "How much can I have by then?").
This book is organized in seven parts and twenty-three chapters. Each chapter ends with a summary of key points and with a set of discussion questions. Because estimating and planning are meant to be whole-team activities, one of the ways I hope this book will be read is by teams who meet perhaps weekly to discuss what they've read and the questions at the end of each chapter. Because agile software development is popular worldwide, I have tried to avoid writing an overly United States-centric book. To that end, I have used the universal currency symbol, writing amounts such as ¤500 instead of perhaps $500 or €500 and so on.
Part I describes why planning is important, the problems we often encounter, and the goals of an agile approach. Chapter 1 begins the book by describing the purpose of planning, what makes a good plan, and what makes planning agile. The most important reasons why traditional approaches to estimating and planning lead to unsatisfactory results are described in Chapter 2. Finally, Chapter 3 begins with a brief recap of what agility means and then describes the high-level approach to agile estimating and planning taken by the rest of this book.
The second part introduces a main tenet of estimating, that estimates of size and duration should be kept separate. Chapters 4 and 5 introduce story points and ideal days, two units appropriate for estimating the size of the features to be developed. Chapter 6 describes techniques for estimating in story points and ideal days, and includes a description of planning poker. Chapter 7 describes when and how to re-estimate, and Chapter 8 offers advice on choosing between story points and ideal days.
Part III, "Planning for Value," offers advice on how a project team can make sure they are building the best possible product. Chapter 9 describes the mix of factors that need to be considered when prioritizing features. Chapter 10 presents an approach for modeling the financial return from a feature or feature set and how to compare financial returns so that the team works on the most valuable items first. Chapter 11 includes advice on how to assess and then prioritize the desirability of features to a product's users. Chapter 12 concludes this part with advice on how to split large features into smaller, more manageable ones.
In Part IV, we shift our attention and focus on questions around scheduling a project. Chapter 13 begins by looking at the steps involved in scheduling a relatively simple, single-team project. Next, Chapter 14 looks at how to plan an iteration. Chapters 15 and 16 look at how to select an appropriate iteration length for the project and how to estimate a team's initial rate of progress. Chapter 17 looks in detail at how to schedule a project with either a high amount of uncertainty or a greater implication to being wrong about the schedule. This part concludes with Chapter 18, which describes the additional steps necessary in estimating and planning a project being worked on by multiple teams.
Once a plan has been established, it must be communicated to the rest of the organization and the team's progress against it monitored. These are the topics of the three chapters of Part V. Chapter 19 looks specifically at monitoring the release plan, while Chapter 20 looks at monitoring the iteration plan. The final chapter in this part, Chapter 21, deals specifically with communicating about the plan and progress toward it.
Chapter 22 is the lone chapter in Part VI. This chapter argues the case for why agile estimating and planning work and stands as a counterpart to Chapter 2, which describes why traditional approaches fail so often.
Part VII, the final part, includes only one chapter. Chapter 23 is an extended case study that reasserts the main points of this book but does so in a fictional setting.
"Traditional, deterministic approaches to planning and estimating simply don't cut it on the slippery slopes of today's dynamic, change-driven projects. Mike Cohn's breakthrough book gives us not only the philosophy, but also the guidelines and a proven set of tools that we need to succeed in planning, estimating, and scheduling projects with a high uncertainty factor. At the same time, the author never loses sight of the need to deliver business value to the customer each step of the way."
—Doug DeCarlo, author ofeXtreme Project Management: Using Leadership, Principles and Tools to Deliver Value in the Face of Volatility(Jossey-Bass, 2004)
"We know how to build predictive plans and manage them. But building plans that only estimate the future and then embrace change, challenge most of our training and skills. InAgile Estimating and Planning, Mike Cohn once again fills a hole in the Agile practices, this time by showing us a workable approach to Agile estimating and planning. Mike delves into the nooks and crannies of the subject and anticipates many of the questions and nuances of this topic. Students of Agile processes will recognize that this book is truly about agility, bridging many of the practices between Scrum and ExtremeProgramming."
—Ken Schwaber, Scrum evangelist, Agile Alliance cofounder, and signatory to the Agile Manifesto
"InAgile Estimating and Planning, Mike Cohn has, for the first time, brought together most everything that the Agile community has learned about the subject. The book is clear, well organized, and a pleasant and valuable read. It goes into all the necessary detail, and at the same time keeps the reader's burden low. We can dig in as deeply as we need to, without too much detail before we need it. The book really brings together everything we have learned about Agile estimation and planning over the past decade. It will serve its readers well."
—Ron Jeffries, www.XProgramming.com, author ofExtreme Programming Installed(Addison-Wesley, 2001) andExtreme Programming Adventures in C#(Microsoft Press, 2004)
"Agile Estimating and Planningprovides a view of planning that's balanced between theory and practice, and it is supported by enough concrete experiences to lend it credibility. I particularly like the quote 'planning is a quest for value.' It points to a new, more positive attitude toward planning that goes beyond the 'necessary evil' view that I sometimes hold."
—Kent Beck, author ofExtreme Programming Explained, Second Edition(Addison-Wesley, 2005)
"Up-front planning is still the most critical part of software development. Agile software development requires Agile planning techniques. This book shows you how to employ Agile planning in a succinct, practical, and easy-to-follow manner."
—Adam Rogers, Ultimate Software
"Mike does a great follow-up toUser Stories Appliedby continuing to provide Agile teams with the practical approaches and techniques to increase agility. In this book, Mike provides time-proven and well-tested methods for being successful with the multiple levels of planning and estimating required by Agile. This book is the first to detail the disciplines of Agile estimating and planning, in ways that rival my 1980 civil engineering texts on CPM Planning and Estimating."
—Ryan Martens, President and Founder, Rally Software Development Corporation
"With insight and clarity, Mike Cohn shows how to effectively produce software of high business value. With Agile estimation and planning, you focus effort where it really counts, and continue to do so as circumstances change."
—Rick Mugridge, Rimu Research Ltd., and lead author,Fit for Developing Software(Prentice Hall, 2005)
"Finally! The groundbreaking book my clients have been clamoring for!Agile Estimating and Planningdemystifies the process of defining, driving, and delivering great software that matters to the business. Mike's clarity, insight, and experience leap out through every page of this book, offering an approach that is relevant and immediately useful to all members of an Agile project."
—Kert D. Peterson, President, Enterprise Agile Group, LLC
"This isn't yet another generic book on Agile software development.Agile Estimating and Planningfills a gap left by most of the other books and gives you important, practical, down-to-earth techniques needed to be successful on Agile development projects."
—Steve Tockey, Principal Consultant, Construx Software
"Estimation, planning, and tracking is a trinity. If you don't do one of them, you don't need the other two. This book provides very practical knowledge for estimation, planning, prioritizing, and tracking. It should be compulsory subject matter for project managers and their teams, even if they hesitate to call themselves Agile."
—Niels Malotaux, Project Coach
"Effective planning is an important, but often misunderstood, part of any successful Agile project. WithAgile Estimating and Planning, Mike Cohn has given us a definitive guide to a wide range of Agile estimating and planning practices. With his clear and practical style, Mike not only explains how to successfully get started planning an Agile project, but also provides a wealth of tips and advice for improving any team's Agile planning process. This book is a must-read for managers, coaches, and members of Agile teams."
—Paul Hodgetts, Agile coach and CEO, Agile Logic
"Mike's writing style captures the essence of agility-just the right amount of information to bring clarity to the reader. This book provides an excellent guide for all Agile practitioners, both seasoned and novice."
—Robert Holler, President and CEO, VersionOne, LLC
"It is as if Mike took the distilled knowledge regarding planning and estimation of a great Agile developer (which he is) and laid out all he knows in an easily understandable manner. More importantly, he has a great mix of concepts with real-world examples finished off with a case study so the reader can relate the information to their own situation. Unless you are already an expert Agile planner and estimator, this book is for you."
—Alan Shalloway, CEO, Senior Consultant, Net Objectives, and coauthor ofDesign Patterns Explained, Second Edition(Addison-Wesley, 2005)
"Although I had plenty of XP experience before trying out Mike Cohn's Agile planning practices, the effectiveness of the practical and proven techniques in this book blew me away! The book recognizes that people, not tools or processes, produce great software, and that teams benefit most by learning about their project and their product as they go. The examples in the book are concrete, easily grasped, and simply reek of common sense. This book will help teams (whether Agile or not) deliver more value, more often, and have fun doing it! Whether you're a manager or a programmer, a tester or a CEO, part of an Agile team, or just looking for a way to stamp out chaos and death marches, this book will guide you."
—Lisa Crispin, coauthor ofTesting Extreme Programming(Addison-Wesley, 2003)
"Mike Cohn does an excellent job demonstrating how an Agile approach can address issues of risk and uncertainty in order to provide more meaningful estimates and plans for software projects."
—Todd Little, Senior Development Manager, Landmark Graphics
"Mike Cohn explains his approach to Agile planning, and shows how 'critical chain' thinking can be used to effectively buffer both schedule and features. As withUser Stories Applied, this book is easy to read and grounded in real-world experience."
—Bill Wake, author ofRefactoring Workbook(Addison-Wesley, 2003)
"Mike brings this book to life with real-world examples that help reveal how and why an Agile approach works for planning software development projects. This book has great breadth, ranging from the fundamentals of release planning to advanced topics such as financial aspects of prioritization. I can see this book becoming an invaluable aid to Agile project managers, as it provides a wealth of practical tips such as how to set iteration length and boot-strap velocity, and communicate progress."
—Rachel Davies, Independent Consultant
"There has been a need for a solid, pragmatic book on the long-term vision of an Agile Project for project managers.Agile Estimating and Planningaddresses this need. It's not theory—this book contains project-tested practices that have been used on Agile projects. As Mike's test subjects, we applied these practices to the development of video games (one of the most unpredictable project environments you can imagine) with success."
—Clinton Keith, Chief Technical Officer, High Moon Studios
"When I first heard Mike Cohn speak, I was impressed by a rare combination of qualities: deep experience and understanding in modern iterative and Agile methods; a drive to find and validate easy, high-impact solutions beyond the status quo of traditional (usually ineffective) methods; and the passion and clarity of a natural coach. These qualities are evident in this wonderful, practical guide. I estimate you won't be disappointed in studying and applying his advice."
—Craig Larman, Chief Scientist, Valtech, and author ofApplying UML and Patterns, Third Edition(Prentice Hall, 2005) andAgile and Iterative Development(Addison-Wesley, 2004)
"Agile Estimating and Planningis a critical guide on how to successfully provide value to customers of IT services. This book is filled with clear examples that are essential—from project team members to the executive level."
—Lou Thomas, Director, Applications Development, Farm Credit Services of America
"This work is deeply significant in that it articulates and details structured techniques to realize a simple, but profound insight—planning is an iterative quest for value, rather than a perfunctory scheduling of activities. Mike presents processes to converge on this value while reducing risk and uncertainty, supporting decision making, establishing trust, and conveying information. Agile methodologies have shifted the emphasis from plans to planning, but have glossed over many of the finer details of Agile planning. Now, very simply and accessibly, Mike demonstrates how it can be done."
—Sanjiv Augustine, Practice Director, Lean-Agile Consulting at CC Pace, and author ofManaging Agile Projects(Prentice Hall, 2005)
"The techniques described inAgile Estimating and Planninghave helped us tremendously with planning and managing our projects. It provides all you have ever wanted to know about Agile project management."
—Roman Pichler, Engineering Manager, Siemens Communications
"Mike Cohn presents a highly pragmatic and logical approach to making projects successful in a world beset by uncertainty and change. With his trademark clarity and directness, Mike cuts through the management mumbo jumbo to present practical techniques that can be put into use immediately. Put the odds squarely in your favor by making Mike Cohn the planning guru on your next big project."
—Pete Deemer, Vice President, Product Development, Yahoo!
"This book distills the fundamental ideas behind Agile estimating and planning, presenting them in a thoughtful and approachable manner. This is a 'must-have' book that presents clear, unambiguous, and practical advice for anyone who wants to successfully manage modern software development projects."
—Scott W. Ambler, President, Ambysoft Inc.
"How do your projects go? Frustrating changes? Uncertainty? Product missing both the mark and the deadline? With insight and clarity, Mike Cohn shows how to effectively produce software that is of high business value. With agile estimation and planning, you focus effort where it really counts, and continue to do so as circumstances change."
—Rick Mugridge, Rimu Research Ltd., and lead author ofFit for Developing Software
"We are true believers in the agile methods described in this book, and have experienced a substantially positive impact from their implementation and continued use. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in making their software development more practical and effective."
—Mark M. Gutrich, President and CEO, Fast 401k, Inc.
Agile Estimating and Planningis the definitive, practical guide to estimating and planning agile projects. In this book, Agile Alliance cofounder Mike Cohn discusses the philosophy of agile estimating and planning and shows you exactly how to get the job done, with real-world examples and case studies.
Concepts are clearly illustrated and readers are guided, step by step, toward how to answer the following questions: What will we build? How big will it be? When must it be done? How much can I really complete by then? You will first learn what makes a good plan-and then what makes it agile.
Using the techniques inAgile Estimating and Planning, you can stay agile from start to finish, saving time, conserving resources, and accomplishing more. Highlights include:
Agile Estimating and Planningsupports any agile, semiagile, or iterative process, including Scrum, XP, Feature-Driven Development, Crystal, Adaptive Software Development, DSDM, Unified Process, and many more. It will be an indispensable resource for every development manager, team leader, and team member.See all Product Description