Despite the current #NoEstimates trend, at Unruly we still estimate our user stories. The way we do this is in small informal meetings in our development area. Why do we find this useful? Because estimates of development costs inform decisions on what to develop next.

At Unruly our teams are all working on multiple product streams. We don’t have long-term project or release plans. We deploy features as soon as we can rather than to hit a release date. We agree the next set of priorities with our product stakeholders every few weeks. The team makes a proposal of what seem to be the most valuable stories to work on next and we also offer our stakeholders a list of alternative options as estimated stories. There’s a bit of shuffling in the meeting, which typically takes less that 30 mins. We are not making a commitment to deliver exactly those stories as something more important may come up.

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As we whittle down our proposed list of best value stories in the lead-up to story prioritisation with stakeholders, developers make two kinds of estimate. A rough “ballpark” given by a lone developer is used to figure out whether to bin the idea or do further investigation. A “full estimate” is given by the team when the developer investigating that story has gathered enough information to bring a proposal to the team. We only put full estimates on stories that are strong contenders to present to stakeholders for next iteration.

I wonder if #NoEstimates approach is effective when there’s no significant value tradeoff being made around strands of work (sets of small user stories) and that we find estimates useful because we’re looking for the most valuable stories each time and development cost is a part of that. I think it’s because we’re in a #NoProjects context that we find estimates useful, I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on this.