Aptage PERF: Project Estimation, Risk and Feasibility for Agile

This article describes the Aptage PERF tool and how it combines the sciences of a) wisdom of teams and b) mathematics of uncertainty. We put the “science” in SWAG. See Aptage PERF – for Engineering for the same article on engineering projects.

Step 1) You have a big idea…

The team has an idea, not just a great idea but a fantastic one. This idea has a really good chance to move the needle, delight your customers, and really put you ahead of the competition.

There is a conference nine sprints from now, and it would be awesome to have this ready to show off and start taking pre-orders.

Step 2) SWAG an Estimate

Ok, let’s take an hour or two and collectively estimate what big buckets of work and deliverables we’ll need in order to get this done. We suggest estimating the features/epics/big things as buckets of story points, to split later into small stories.

There are some really good ways to estimate with ranges, relative estimates, and risk flags. We recommend Super Planning Poker as a way to estimate. Leverage the wisdom of the team and whatever past experience you have to get this just close enough. With estimation, perfect really is the enemy of the good – go fast and don’t try to get it perfect.

Here’s the psychology that matters here. People are really good about estimating the boundary of a single thing, but we are terrible at intuiting for combined risks. In this example, the teams estimate of 25-30 story pionts range for Feature B is probably about right, and the “*risky” assessment for Integration A is also likely right. Where we aren’t good is combining all of these risks together – more in Thinking Fast and Slow for Project Management

Step 3) Putting the “Science” in SWAG

Excellent work. Now let’s take this wisdom from the team and package it up for analysis.

Here’s the spreadsheet that get’s the job done:


Step 4) Can we get it done by the deadline?

Now, we can use Aptage to answer this important question! We have about 9 sprints before the conference… Are we confident this work can finish in 8 sprints?

84% Risk! Yikes, that’s a lot of red.

Step 5) That’s too risky, what can we do to increase our odds of success?

There is a chance everything might go really well, but we’d rather have 60 or 80% confidence before deciding to start this project. We need to improve the odds.

The options are classic: schedule, resource, or scope management. What’s new with Aptage is that we can measure the actual probability/odds when evaluating these options!

Step 6a) Schedule management – can we push the date?

If we could push the date out two more sprints then we could increase our chance of making the date up to 71%! (See the Aptage chart above, the section of the right that shows likelihood of completing by sprint 10).

But of course this deadline can’t really move, the conference is already locked in and we aren’t able to change that. On to other options.

Step 6b) Resource management – can we leverage more hands?

Let’s consider adding more teams. We all heed the caution of Brooks’s Law, but in this case it seems like a good options. This is the very start of the project, and we were optimistic putting together a tiger team of only 2 agile teams. Let’s try it.

If we add one more team, and re-run the Aptage analysis, we get an increased likelihood of 93%, up from only 16%.

That certainly improves our odds! What does it cost us to make this move? The team we are considering adding to this project would have been working on something else, and the opportunity cost of that work is at stake.

Step 6c) Scope management – Can we cut some features?

Let’s try to take out some scope, by removing “Component 2” and also removing “Integration B”.

This works to really increase our confidence of an on-time delivery!

Step 7) Approved: Less Scope and we have High Confidence.

We concluded that the less scope option will still be able to gather the attention of the conference. We have a plan!

As a backup option we’ve decided to monitor the project risk continuously and if risk starts to go up we can consider bringing that third team in to help, but only if we have to and also if there is a natural starting of new work they could help with effectively. See the Aptage Risk Burndown for more insight into continuously measuring project risk.

Want to try this out yourself?

Here’s the spreadsheet we used: Aptage PERF Agile

Contact us and we can set you up with a trial account so you can do this yourself!

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