Your project estimates will be wrong. (They still may be crucial.)

Musing for:

Your project estimates will be wrong.

Yes, I’m going to throw my hat in the ring on the topic of software development estimates.

I know they’re pretty much always wrong. Believe me; I’ve lived through that pain, both as a team lead responsible for estimating and as a director over many teams.

I get the attraction to the idea of #NoEstimates. And I can understand that for certain types of projects in certain types of environments, your customers can be happy with a more rapid delivery of the next “most important feature” without ever hearing when you expect it to be deployed.

But as your circle of influence grows, you may shift from delivering specific projects for individual clients and start delivering larger products to serve broader markets. As that happens, timeline estimates become more important.

Businesses have to make many kinds of predictions and forecasts based on limited and unreliable data. As your growing leadership role invites you into more business-focused conversations, you will also need to make forecasts regarding the value your software teams will be delivering. Many times, creating those forecasts will need some form of aggregated estimate on feature delivery.

Your teams can still have freedom on how much precision they put into their estimates. But eventually, you’ll need a way to associate the delivery of customer value to a timeframe on the calendar.

So yes, go ahead and break down your stories into tiny fragments. Yes, deliver the most valuable features first. Those are excellent strategies.

And as you find yourself growing as a result of your success, be prepared for the moment when you will have to come up with estimates.

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