Customer Reviews: Agile Estimating and Planning
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Showing 1-8 of 8 reviews(3 star). Show all reviews
VINE VOICEon January 29, 2006
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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on February 24, 2008
This book presents a pseudo-quantitative method for estimation for so-called agile development. Cohn suggests subjectively estimating relative size of user stories on some arbitrary scale (within one order of magnitude) in a round-table approach called Planning Poker. Getting input from key stakeholders is a good strategy....not only does it develop buy-in, it sets expectations and clearly defines the scope. However, caution must be taken when using Planning Poker; these roundrobin techniques are often used as a way of influencing a group to agree on a predetermined conclusion. In addition the team must guard against "Groupthink," where individuals intentionally conform to what they think will be the ultimate conclusion of the group as a whole. During this Poker process, Cohn suggests estimating relative sizes of user stories on a Fibonacci sequence scale (1, 2, 3, 5, and 8). The problem with using this--or any numeric scale--is that there is an inherent implication that the effort required to implement each User Story is proportionate to the scale. (I.e. a user story estimated at 8 Story Points will require 4x the effort of a User Story estimated at 2 Story Points). In estimation false precision is the enemy of accuracy. Any computational methods applied to these Story Points (such as the calculation of velocity, essentially a delivery rate, in terms of story points implemented per unit time) is much less valid than the number imply. Agile development is much more adaptive than waterfall and even more so than iterative. With its Timeboxed deliveries on the order of weeks (rather than months) and responsive nature with respect to requirements change, I can see how predicting this type of fluid development would certainly qualify as nontrivial.

With that said, the advantage of relative size, according to Bozoki, is that very early on, estimates of relative sizes are more accurate than estimates of absolute sizes. Cohn's methods also leverage another fact of life: the Law of Large Numbers (LLN). The LLN provides a tendency for errors inherent in a bunch of small estimates (like User Stories) to cancel each other out to a limited extent.

My primary concern with this method is that we have an qualitative method disguised as a quantitative method with out adequate consideration of estimate uncertainty/error propagation.
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VINE VOICEon January 29, 2009
A methodology for estimating and planning in an agile environment is presented, but it is very limited. In some cases the book raises issues with what is presented, and then ignores them. Some examples:

- Requirements are sized via "story points" based on complexity - the fact that a given number of points may take longer if it involves new technology is mentioned but not addressed.

- In determining what stories can fit into an iteration, the book does not consider balance of functions (analyst, database developer, software developer, tester, etc.). In fact the book goes as far as saying that stories/tasks should not be assigned in iteration planning, and that if a software developer has extra time, he could help with writing stored procedures or testing. Also there is no mentioning of how to plan team composition, and/or whether the team should ever be augmented with contractors when certain functions have too much work.

- In prioritizing, various models are suggested (financial and desirability), but does not present any way to combine the approaches.

- In splitting stories, it is suggested to split into features versus tasks, but there is no mention of the added cost of having to redo more pieces of code (and more tests) more times. Similarly, when editing code, the author recommends against addressing known bugs in the code!

In summary, the book presents a methodology that evidently works well for some, yet has a fair number of holes.
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People are, in general, bad at estimating with any definition or accuracy.

That's pretty much the core of this book; and it puts across that message quite well. It then puts forth some good ideas on how to work around this. Using the Fibonacci sequence is a stroke of brilliance and is pretty much the de-facto standard in all agile projects.

The book hasn't, however, held up well over time. It can lack coherence, and once you understand the core message, there's not much additional value in reading the whole book.
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on February 13, 2014
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. Reading his book I agree he is good. So if you have to learn about Agile than he is one of the best sources.
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on January 6, 2015
average reference book
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It's a nice book on the topic but definitely not a must-read. Cohn has good tips and general advices but the book focus lots more on planning than estimating.
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on June 14, 2013
It's ok but not a must-buy book. The content sometime distract readers from the main topic- agile estimating and planing
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