A different approach to estimations in SAFe

Facebook
Twitter
LinkedIn
Pinterest
WhatsApp

SAFe™ (The Scaled Agile Framework) uses Story Points throughout the various levels as its estimation currency. This is covered in the “Story” article on the SAFe site. This is a pretty standard practice in organizations scaling agile these days. If you dive a bit deeper into how this is done in SAFe you will see that actually the story points used in SAFe are quite similar to “Ideal Developer Day” as this helps the teams align to a common baseline and support a rational economic ROI discussion at the level of Features/Capabilities that require effort from more than one team or haven’t even been mapped to a specific team yet.

An alternative to using Story Points at the team level that is interesting to look at especially as Kanban is becoming a first-class citizen of the SAFe world is to use NoEstimates.

In essence, this means not trying to estimate the size of the work just slicing work into a size that we can bite on and turn around quickly. To get a quick grasp cards-legend-non-explicit-rotated-b43a891a4ea2f2300bc84fcbee6c3bb6of it think of replacing your classic Fibonacci planning poker cards with a set of cards saying 1, TFB (Too Frighteningly Big), NFC (No Faintest Clue). This approach is rising in popularity among Kanban/ScrumBan practitioners – We’ve been looking at the “Iteration Planning” process for years trying to address some of its wastes/tensions.

This “No Estimates” inspired approach to story estimation in PI Planning has a couple of benefits:

  • It is faster – which comes in handy during PI Planning.
  • It forces teams to slice into smaller stories which is better.
  • It is naturally easier to baseline/align multiple teams around the same definition. (BTW a 1 here would be something like a 3 or 5 in the classic SAFe velocity calculation – a story that takes the team about 3 days to develop and 3 days to test)

Iteration Planning becomes even easier – Just understand your velocity and how many stories you can fit. Minimal time is spent estimating.

There are a couple of challenges though. Forcing the team to split their whole Feature into small 1-size stories including those that are only going to be pulled in later iterations in the PI might be a waste of time.

Another challenge is how to make rational economic decisions at the Feature/Capability and even Epic level without estimates. #NoEstimates die-hards say it doesn’t make sense to estimate even at this level, not just the stories level. I’m not convinced. What I typically do in cases where teams stop estimating story sizes is just use story counts as the currency at the higher levels. So instead of saying “This seems to be a 20 Story Points Feature” we would say “This Feature seems to be something around 20 stories” meaning we ESTIMATE it will map to about 20 stories when we eventually slice it. We DON’T slice it to stories in order to estimate. We reach that estimation using a classic relative estimate approach like Planning Poker / Team Estimation Game. This is actually something that helps with the first challenge as well. Knowing that we’re dealing with a Feature that we think has about 20 stories and that we identified 7 stories for the first iteration and 4 stories for the second, we might say something like there are around 9 stories more for the third iteration or even better – let’s look at the remaining chunk and compare that to our feature estimation scale and see how many stories we think there are there.

Of course, if we think there are dragons (a.k.a dependencies) hidden in this remaining chunk we should make the effort to slice it into smaller stories and work out the dependencies/scheduling with the other teams on the train.

I’ve done this with clients in the trenches. Based on this experience, I consider this alternative approach to estimation a legitimate alternative to Story Points estimation at the SAFe Team Level.

This blog post was originally posted on Yuval’s personal blog back in 2016.  

Categories:

Tags:

System Team
Amdocs
Limiting Work in Progress
Lean Agile Management
Hybrid Work
Agile Development
Agile
Agile Marketing
Continuous Improvement
Scrum Master
Continuous Planning
Games and Exercises
Lean and Agile Techniques
DevOps
Kanban Kickstart Example
Lean Startup
Agile and DevOps Journey
Principles of Lean-Agile Leadership
Agile Testing Practices
Process Improvement
ROI
Sprint Iteration
Managing Projects
EOS®
Systems Thinking
Legacy Code
Kaizen Workshop
NIT
speed @ scale
Scrum Values
Releases Using Lean
Agile Release Planning
AI Artificial Intelligence
WIP
Atlaassian
Frameworks
Agile Project Management
Scrum With Kanban
Pomodoro Technique
Lean Agile
Test Driven Development
Agile in the Enterprise
Covid19
Continuous Deployment
Coaching Agile Teams
Program Increment
Effective Agile Retrospectives
BDD
Implementation of Lean and Agile
ARTs
Reading List
Entrepreneurial Operating System®
Risk Management in Kanban
Video
Value Streams
Agile India
Slides
Enterprise DevOps
ATDD
LAB
Lean Agile Basics
Large Scale Scrum
Certified SAFe
SAFe
The Agile Coach
Agile Mindset
Presentation
Agile Project
Kanban 101
LeSS
Sprint Retrospectives
Nexus
Code
Applying Agile Methodology
Advanced Roadmaps
ALM Tools
Kanban Game
AgileSparks
Lean and Agile Principles and Practices
Portfolio for Jira
Rapid RTC
Continuous Integration
Scrum
Product Management
Jira Cloud
ART Success
Artificial Intelligence
Spotify
RSA
Change Management
Agility
Built-In Quality
Engineering Practices
Agile Product Development
Iterative Incremental Development
System Archetypes
GanttBan
Scrum and XP
Lean-Agile Software Development
SPC
Elastic Leadership
SAFe Release Planning
ATDD vs. BDD
Agile Exercises
Planning
Agile Israel Events
Kanban Basics
Perfection Game
ScrumMaster Tales
An Appreciative Retrospective
Webinar
Daily Scrum
Release Train Engineer
Agile Games
Lean Risk Management
Accelerate Value Delivery At Scale
Self-organization
Agile Community
PI Planning
Quality Assurance
Development Value Streams
lean agile change management
Kaizen
IT Operations
QA
Managing Risk on Agile Projects
POPM
PI Objectives
Agile Risk Management
Lean Software Development
Agile Program
Introduction to Test Driven Development
Professional Scrum with Kanban
Story Slicing
Lean-Agile Budgeting
Product Ownership
Nexus vs SAFe
Risk Management on Agile Projects
Agile Release Management
Continuous Delivery
Lean Agile Leadership
Agile Contracts Best Practices
RTE Role
Jira
Agile Games and Exercises
Sprint Planning
speed at scale
Agile for Embedded Systems
System Integration Environments
Operational Value Stream
SAFe DevOps
A Kanban System for Software Engineering
Scrum.org
Agile Product Ownership
Acceptance Test-Driven Development
Business Agility
Risk-aware Product Development
Scaled Agile Framework
TDD
Agile Assembly Architecture
Lean Agile Organization
Nexus and Kanban
Nexus Integration Team
The Kanban Method
Software Development Estimation
Scrum Guide
What Is Kanban
Lean Budgeting
Agile Outsourcing
Professional Scrum Master
Agile Delivery
Kanban
Jira Plans
Software Development
Nexus and SAFe
Scrum Master Role
Tips
Introduction to ATDD
Agile Basics
Legacy Enterprise
Manage Budget Creation
Scrum Primer
Achieve Business Agility
Agile Techniques
AgileSparks
Logo
Enable registration in settings - general

AgileSparks Newsletter

Subscribe to our newsletter, and stay updated on the latest Agile news and events

academy@agilesparks.com

WELCOME

to our new website

WELCOME

to our new website

This website uses Cookies to provide a better experience
Shopping cart