Before an agile project starts, many product owners will run an early release estimate. Once the activities get started, managers or scrum masters begin to track the progress. When they track, they usually include the person hours of effort and the number of user stories within each sprint. There are a number of agile tracking tools and methods in the marketplace for these tasks.
But wouldn’t it be great if the tracking and estimation process could be combined, using the actual tracked effort and user stories to run new and improved ongoing estimates at the release level? At QSM, we have applied this process to hundreds of software projects. This type of adaptive forecasting can help save time and effort by showing when a software release is headed down the wrong path. It can also help organizations avoid signing up to inflated resource planning numbers that cause many companies to waste millions of dollars at the release and enterprise levels.
In the SLIM-Control charts below, we see the blue plans versus the red actuals and the new forecasts in white. We are capturing the total effort spent and the actual work delivered each week, then using that information to generate mathematical models that produce new empirically based forecasts at the release level.
It's also important to see how actual data compares to the initial plan. In the SLIM-Control charts below, there are plans versus actuals like many tools show, but the big advantage here is that there are control bounds. These green and yellow indicators let us know early whether or not this project release has a good chance for success. This statistical analysis gives us a leg to stand on when negotiating our targets, and because we see the caution signs early, we still have enough time to make a difference.
We should be tracking agile projects, but more than that, we need to see if the initial plans are realistic. Then we need to use the project actuals to generate new forecasts at the release level while we are grooming the backlog. This type of analysis will create added visibility and enable us to negotiate new release and enterprise level targets.