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Agile Estimating and Planning (Robert C. Martin) Paperback – 1 Nov 2005

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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,, 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 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 of Managing Agile Projects (Prentice Hall, 2005)

"The techniques described in Agile Estimating and Planning have 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 of Fit 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.

Detailed, Proven Techniques for Estimating and Planning Any Agile Project

Agile Estimating and Planning is 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 in Agile Estimating and Planning, you can stay agile from start to finish, saving time, conserving resources, and accomplishing more. Highlights include:

  • Why conventional prescriptive planning fails and why agile planning works
  • How to estimate feature size using story points and ideal days―and when to use each
  • How and when to re-estimate
  • How to prioritize features using both financial and nonfinancial approaches
  • How to split large features into smaller, more manageable ones
  • How to plan iterations and predict your team's initial rate of progress
  • How to schedule projects that have unusually high uncertainty or schedule-related risk
  • How to estimate projects that will be worked on by multiple teams

Agile Estimating and Planning supports 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.

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).

Inside This Book

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Estimating and planning are critical to the success of any software development project of any size or consequence. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Mr. Paul J. Grenyer on 27 Mar. 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I bought this book because I'm generally rubbish at estimating (I usually under estimate). Also, although we have the technical elements of agile (source control, unit tests, continuous integration, etc) sorted, my agile project management is not all it could be. Agile Estimating and Planning may be as close as I ever get to a silver bullet.

To be honest I expected to be let down and that the scenarios described in the book would not match the situations I find myself in. I was not let down at all. The book covers both planning when features are important and planning when a deadline is important.

It taught me that it was wrong to break stories into tasks when release planning and to leave that for iteration planning. The book discusses the use of both story points and ideal days in estimating, what they both are, the differences between them and then suggests you should use story points.

It described what release and iteration planning are and when to use them. It also discusses how to predict, where necessary, and how to measure velocity in order to calculate the duration of projects. One of the most important things covered from my point of view was how, when and with what to report to the product owner and stake holders.

The book finishes with a 60 page case study. I was tempted not to bother reading this as it goes over the main points covered in the rest of the book again. I was glad I read it and if you buy this book you should read the case study if you read nothing else. It helps put in context how estimating should be done and describes the processes surrounding it.

All I have to do now is write a distilled version for my team, including the project managers, product owners and stakeholder and put it into practice.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Paul Oldfield on 1 Jan. 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
One only has to read all the comments from the leaders of agile thinking to know that this is an excellent book. It's definitely in my top 10, probably in my top 5 list of essential 'agile' reading. This book takes the agilist into areas often neglected; those topics traditionally dealt with by the Business Analyst; the person who shapes the product being produced, who has his finger on the pulse with respect to value and desirability of all the possible features that may be incorporated in a product; the person who knows which products should be prioritised for development. It brings to this person a toolbox of modern techniques that allow him to interact with a modern product development team. With a good few years experience in BA-like roles, this book taught me quite a few things that I should already have known but did not.

However, this book is not just for BAs and their ilk; as other reviewers have stated, it is also very instructive for developers and project managers.

Mike's style is very accessible without skimping on technical detail; this is a reasonably easy read for those who do cover-to-cover, and also a great book for those who want a desktop reference.
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27 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Mark Mcclelland on 27 Sept. 2007
Format: Paperback
This is a good book for project managers and senior developers who have enough experience to understand that even a practice like agile development needs a framework to work within and a certain number of standard project management controls to be successful.

It deals with some of the practical issues a project manager will face like prioritisation techniques, acceptable levels of functional delivery, inter-dependencies, estimating, padding estimates, monitoring progress, release and iteration planning.

Cohn hasn't written the book specifically around any one methodology (ie SCRUM, XP etc) which is good, as in reality people lift and use ideas from various methodologies. In that respect this book is a good reference guide to dip in and out of, picking the bits that are most appropriate, rather than reading it cover to cover. It is well laid out and easy to read.

As a project manager I am responsible for planning the end-to-end process from requirements through to delivery, therefore I felt that there were some areas that were either not covered in enough depth or omitted altogether:-
* the writing of user stories, and how to plan for their handover to programmers (if produced by a separate individual or team),
* while programmer testing is discussed their is no mention of functional (or acceptance testing) of the produced code,
* scaling up to large (possibly enterprise size) projects is only skimmed over,
* while the estimation techniques discussed can be applied to user story creation and functional/acceptance test creation and execution it is implied rather than explicitly suggested,
* personally I didn't feel that the book addressed the area of changing requirements enough, but maybe that's me.

Being a project manager with more waterfall than agile development experience I might be being overly harsh in these criticisms.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on 22 May 2009
Format: Paperback
Cohn's book, as the title suggests, is firmly aimed at the Agile development end of the market. The book contains much useful material that is otherwise scattered throughout the literature - and material that a casual reader would not expect to find in a book on agile development techniques, so the book becomes worth reading for practitioners of all project sizes.

For example, there is a complete chapter on the prioritisation of requirements by desirability using Kano analysis. This technique divides requirements into three groups:
- Essentials - those requirements that are essential for the stakeholder to even consider using it;
- Linears - those requirements that are linearly valuable, ie those where doubling an element of the requirement is perceived as being twice as desirable;
- Delighters - those requirements that delight a stakeholder - usually only a small number being necessary.

The author describes techniques to draw up a questionnaire based on Kano analysis for potential customers to quantify which requirements they categorise into the three categories above. This will also business stakeholders (such as product managers) to prioritise requirements.
Cohn has a whole chapter on financial prioritisation - techniques that allow the quantitative financial measures be associated with requirements. The measures discussed are: cost (retained revenue, operational efficiencies and net cash flow), net present value, return on investment and discounted payback period. Armed with this information, business stakeholders are able to prioritise the requirements more easily. In addition, this sort of information adds credibility in the eyes of the CFO, who may otherwise remain unconvinced of the benefits of Agile projects.
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