Scaled Agile (SAFe) is a methodology that applies Agile concepts to large complex environments. QSM recently worked with an organization that had implemented SAFe to develop an estimation methodology specifically tailored to it. This article discusses how it was implemented.
Software estimation typically addresses three concerns: staffing, cost/effort, and schedule. In the SAFe environment, however, development is done in program increments (PI) that in this case were three months in duration with two-week sprints throughout. Staffing was set at a predetermined level and varied very little during the PI. Thus, the three variable elements that are normally estimated (staff, cost/effort, and schedule) had already been determined in advance. So, our job was done, right? Wrong! What remained to be determined was capacity: the amount to be accomplished in a single PI. And that was a very sore “pain point” for the organization.