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Agile Estimating and Planning [Paperback]

by Mike Cohn
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (81 customer reviews)

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Book Description

November 11, 2005 0131479415 978-0131479418 1

Praise for Agile Estimating and Planning

"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 of eXtreme 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. In Agile 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

"In Agile 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 of Extreme Programming Installed (Addison-Wesley, 2001) and Extreme Programming Adventures in C# (Microsoft Press, 2004)

" Agile Estimating and Planning provides 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 of Extreme 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 to User Stories Applied by 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 Planning demystifies 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 Planning fills 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. With Agile 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 of Design 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 of Testing 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 with User Stories Applied, this book is easy to read and grounded in real-world experience."

—Bill Wake, author of Refactoring 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 Planning addresses 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 of Applying UML and Patterns, Third Edition (Prentice Hall, 2005) and Agile and Iterative Development (Addison-Wesley, 2004)

" Agile Estimating and Planning is a critical guide on how to successfully provide value to customers of IT services. This book is filled with clear ...


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Agile Estimating and Planning + User Stories Applied: For Agile Software Development + Succeeding with Agile: Software Development Using Scrum
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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

Product Details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Prentice Hall; 1 edition (November 11, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0131479415
  • ISBN-13: 978-0131479418
  • Product Dimensions: 2.8 x 3.6 x 0.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (81 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #15,885 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
206 of 245 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Draw the Line 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
5.0 out of 5 stars The Planning Approach that Refreshes 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
5.0 out of 5 stars Pactical, Easy read. Answers what, why and how. 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
5.0 out of 5 stars Cohn Delivers a Practical Guide November 15, 2005
By VSZ
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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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Great book
A little theoretical, but a good book to reference when needed. Contains a lot of details. Read it , but expect to spend a while as it contains a lot of detail.
Published 1 month ago by Torstein D. Kongshem
3.0 out of 5 stars Many people suggest Agile is the best and Mike Cohen is the best in...
Many people suggest that any project can be handled with Agile development. I do not agree. I have heard a number of people say the Mike Cohen is the best at Agile. Read more
Published 2 months ago by traveler
5.0 out of 5 stars Great for more advanced teams
This book is great for more advanced teams, scrum masters and product owners. Don't touch it as a beginner though, because you need to have the scrum basics right before moving on... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Han van Loon
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent
Mike's book helped me to better understand Agile estimating and planning so that the Agile method of managing projects is clearer. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Rich Garling
5.0 out of 5 stars A must have book
one of the best titles I read in agile and planning.
a lot of hints and enlightinings are there
read it now
Published 2 months ago by Mansour Omar Ismail
4.0 out of 5 stars Practical and Insightful
My team and I are on our tenth sprint, and we were definitely struggling to find the "right way" to do agile planning and estimation. Read more
Published 3 months ago by J. D. Mitchell
5.0 out of 5 stars Starting or Doing Agile Project Management? This book is a must-read.
This is probably a very good 2nd book to read when you want start managing a project in an agile fashion. Read more
Published 4 months ago by krbabu
5.0 out of 5 stars Great practical book with various options
Very good practical book providing options for various scenarios that can happen in real projects. Can be a very good reference book if you are into agile
Published 6 months ago by Venkata G Doddi
5.0 out of 5 stars Still solid and pertinent after all these years
This book is a classic. It came out in 2006, but is still fully relevant. Highly recommended to all Agile practitioners, beginners or savvy; it has something for us all.
Published 8 months ago by Marina Shalmon
5.0 out of 5 stars The reference book on agile planning
Clear, if wordy study on estimating, planning, handling various risk factors (schedule, feature), across time horizons (release-sprint-daily). Read more
Published 10 months ago by Jordan
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