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Agile Estimating and Planning Paperback – November 11, 2005

ISBN-13: 978-0131479418 ISBN-10: 0131479415 Edition: 1st

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Prentice Hall; 1 edition (November 11, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0131479415
  • ISBN-13: 978-0131479418
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 7 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (86 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #44,564 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Mike Cohn is the founder of Mountain Goat Software, a process and project management consultancy and training firm. With more than twenty years of experience, Mike has been a technology executive in companies ranging from start-ups to Fortune 40s, and is a founding member of the Agile Alliance. He frequently contributes to industry-related magazines and presents regularly at conferences. He is the author of User Stories Applied (Addison-Wesley, 2004).

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

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.



0131479415P10072005

More About the Author

Mike Cohn is the founder of Mountain Goat Software, a process and project management consultancy and training firm. Mike specializes in helping companies adopt and improve their use of agile processes and techniques in order to build extremely high performance development organizations. He is the author of "Agile Estimating and Planning," "User Stories Applied for Agile Software Development," and "Succeeding with Agile: Software Development using Scrum."

With more than 20 years of experience, Mike has previously been a technology executive in companies of various sizes, from startup to Fortune 40. He has also written articles for Better Software, IEEE Computer, Software Test and Quality Engineering, Agile Times, Cutter IT Journal, and the C++ Users' Journal. Mike is a frequent speaker at industry conferences, is a founding member of the Agile Alliance, and serves on its board of directors. He is a Certified ScrumMaster Trainer and a member of the IEEE Computer Society and the ACM. He can be reached at www.mountaingoatsoftware.com.

Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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Very good practical book providing options for various scenarios that can happen in real projects.
Venkata G Doddi
Mike's earlier book, "User Stories Applied" has been one of my most cited books when working with teams new to agile software development.
Jean Tabaka
If you have any doubt about how to estimation and planning works for agile projects, this is the book you need to read.
Alberto Dominguez

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

211 of 250 people found the following review helpful By R. Williams VINE VOICE on January 29, 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A 5 star review just doesn't mean anything anymore. There are some good ideas in this book, but large stretches of this book are just absurd. This thing reads like homework that was finished on the bus (you can almost see the bumps in the road). The structure of the book is completely haphazard. One minute, we are talking about doing estimates. The next minute we are trying to figure out how a project will pay for itself, then, it's on to how to split up stories that got too big. I was waiting for a sidebar with a recipe for a great chiffon cake. At the end of the chapter on estimating value, the author recommends another book and says that's where his content came from (citational plagiarism is called 'plugging,' Youngster). Then, the chapter on splitting stories made me laugh out loud in places. Things like 'split stories along data lines,' or 'split stories along priority lines' or one of the funniest 'split it along CRUD lines.' Come on.

The good part of this book is the one chapter on estimation and discussion of things like using Fibonacci for bucketing of estimates into story points, the importance of seeing estimates as relative, and the idea of doing planning poker. In short: again, it's an article that was turned into a book by a set of expansion techniques that are astounding for not being illegal, let alone questionable. And all this inside a fortress of testimonials that makes Fort Knox look lightly defended.
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25 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Jean Tabaka on February 11, 2006
Format: Paperback
Better planning, as Mary Poppendieck (author of "Lean Software Development") points out, results in a higher standard of living for the individual, for the team, and for the organization. With "Agile Estimating and Planning", Mike Cohn delivers a beautifully pragmatic approach for pushing us into the notion that this higher standard of living is completely attainable for our software development projects in this lifetime.

Mike's earlier book, "User Stories Applied" has been one of my most cited books when working with teams new to agile software development. Understanding the usefulness of the story concept as the base unit of function delivery has put these new teams in a good steady stride for being realiably realistic about their work delivery toward feature completion.

With Mike's "AE&P", I now have a fully referenceable guide that moves the team story planning pragmatics to the next level: bringing multiple planning approaches to bear at multiple levels for multiple measures of software feature acceptance and completion. In his usual style, Mike delivers his guidance with wonderfully accessible non-software analogies. For example, "How long is a football game?" and "How long will it take me to move my pile of dirt?" for understanding the distinction between effort (or ideal hours/days)and duration (total calendar hours/days). These simple mental models set the stage for ruthlessly correcting the many misunderstood atrributes of planning and its life partner estimating. Having shattered the myths of task-based Gantt Charts, PERT charts, and Work Breakdown Structures as completely repeatable prediction models for planning and estimation, Mike rebuilds the planning toolbox with practices that truly work.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Animikh Sen on November 24, 2005
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The book is well structured and easy to read. In my humble opinion, it comes with a strong "buy" rating for any Agile practitioner or a current PMI certified person who wants to contribute to the knowledge economy of ever changing requirements. The book is right sized (finish in a coast to coast trip in US). Practical in its content, it provides lots of examples and case studies, from software as well as non software fields to illustrate the concepts. The detailed case study at the end of the book is invaluable.

Several chapters were much thought provoking, specially how to handle team dynamics and cross team estimation. The book did not right fully delve into any details of that, it's a topic for another time.

Part I of the books sets up the context.

Part II details on estimating the size, and the techniques and tools for doing that; in fact it comes with some simple tools, which can be really customized and expanded quickly.

Part III caters to what I call "value add planning" planning the work by prioritizing by business value, The books touches the concepts of financial project analysis, however there are better books for that, and the author provides the references.

Part IV brings in the concept of time, and the handling of "estimating for effort" and estimating for duration" is simply superb. Also an entire chapter is dedicated to Buffering and its need and for multi-team projects.

Part V presents tools and motivations for monitoring and communicating.

Part VI presents why Agile Planning works, and honestly I skipped it, expect the guidelines ( Page 254) which I read to validate my knowledge.

If there is one thing that I would change in the book, it would be the story point example with dogs.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By VSZ on November 15, 2005
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Aside from being one of the most highly respected and sought after Agile consultants, Mike Cohn is a prolific writer with a focus on delivering practical information based on years of real-world experience bringing agile into organizations. This book continues in that vein, delivering both high level theory surrounding empirical estimating and planning techniques as well as practical "how-to" implementation details. This book drips of real-world experience; while other books seem largely theoretical, Cohn's experience implementing these techniques comes through very clearly.

If you're implementing agile, I highly recommend this book and the techniques outlined for bringing an empirical approach to estimating and planning. There is a misconception that agile is weak on planning; that's not true, there just hasn't been a practical guide before this book. Buy it, read it, carry it with you where ever you go.
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