Thursday, February 01, 2018

Variable Capacity and Story Points

Wendy and Brian discussing agile prioritization

Brian Dusablon and I working at the Advocates for Human Rights.

Please donate.

Brian is serving as the developer/technical lead for this project.

In this picture, Brian and I are picking through the priorities Advocates set and discussing the level of effort needed.

This discussion is important because as with Advocates, his time on the project is limited and somewhat unpredictable.

Now, in the ideal Agile world, all members of the project are solely on that one project.

The closest I’ve seen to that ideal in real life was in the Data Whisperer’s implementation of Agile – and that took 3 years, a new VP, and probably 5 years off his life to achieve.

In the Advocate’s Agile-style implementation, the most important thing we had to accommodate was the wild variance of team availability.

Brian is a pro-bono volunteer.  As am I.

The Advocates staff needs to prioritize their time towards fulfilling their mission.

The tools that helped us here are the Scrum concepts of projected work capacity and story points.

For each 2-week sprint – Advocates will predict their projected work capacity by the number of hours available for the effort for those 2 weeks.  We anticipate that for some sprints, the number of hours may be zero.  That’s ok – though I am hoping that is NEVER the case, for fear that they will lose focus and drop the project.  That’s on them.

In the meantime, Brian predicts his projected work capacity for the project for the sprint, also by the number of hours he will have available for the effort.

Each card has an estimated number of hours (the story points) it will take to complete.  If the item requires feedback or a decision from outside the project team, I asked them to double the number of hours.  I suspect that they are better about talking to each other than most organizations, but it’s been my experience that it takes a lot longer to get an external decision than one predicts.

The estimation of the number of hours/story points occurs when Advocates moves the card from the backlog to Prioritized.

That estimation also occurs when Advocates moves the card from the sprint to “Ready for Development” – Brian needs to identify the amount of time he has available and when he will have something for testing.

Something Advocates made very clear on this effort is that there is no set deadline. They just need to show regular progress to the Board.  Since the velocity will be wildly variable from sprint to sprint, this is good news.  They are not setting an unrealistic deadline for themselves.  As long as they set regular bi-weekly milestones and keep an eye on their goal, I think they will be ok.

My hope is that they are able to maintain momentum after our visit.  As I mentioned before, Advocates staff will be leading the project from here.  A prime example of a business unit taking ownership.  I’ll keep you posted.


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