Determining How Many Task Hours an Agile Team Can Accomplish

Note from Mike… I want to welcome Jim Magers to the LeadingAgile team.  Jim is doing a project with me in Minneapolis, and I asked him to join me here and share some of his experiences from the field.  You can learn more about Jim on his bio page.

Your team is new to agile.

So far, you’ve groomed and organized your backlog, defined your epics and features, and written some user stories.  You’re pretty happy with the quality and definition around your acceptance criteria.  The team has done some story sizing, and you’ve decomposed some number of stories into tasks and assigned ideal hour estimates to them.  So, how do you know how many hours the team can take on to have a chance at a successful sprint?

Teams that I’ve coached have found this sprint utilization worksheet to be a useful tool for estimating initial team capacity, and most have continued to use it beyond the early phases of their agile development as they continue to tweak and improve upon their initial assumptions.

Remember that an ideal hour is an hour of work where one is able to focus entirely without interruption.  My experience is that an agile team that has an average overall utilization of 65% is generally working pretty productively.  That means that in an 8 hour day, a team member who is at 65% utilization is accomplishing somewhere between 5 and 6 hours of focused effort every day.  But you may have team members who are more productive than that.  Perhaps they work remotely and don’t get pulled into as many meetings or side issues and thus are more able to focus better on sprint work.

On the flip side, there are others don’t even come close to  hitting the 65% goal.  These may be new employees who are not yet fully trained, or maybe they routinely get sucked into having to deal with with customer or production issues.

And of course people take days off for holidays and scheduled vacations.  All of this needs to be accounted for in order to be able to confidently estimate ideal hour capacity.

This worksheet assumes a two week sprint, or an 80 ideal hour starting capacity for each team member.  Take your best initial guess at what you think the utilization will be for each team member, being as realistic as possible about their ability to focus on the work of the team for the upcoming sprint.  In the worksheet examples, the utilization numbers I have assigned range from a low of 25% for Pete Hill to a high of 80% for Mary Doe.

Remove any hours off the top for planned vacation, holidays, or all day meetings where  you know that the staff won’t be able to work at all on sprint tasks.  Joe Smith, Tom Jones, and Brenda South are all taking time off during  our iteration, and that is reflected in the “non working hours anticipated” row.

That then leaves us with ideal hours available, and after the individual utilization factor is applied we can derive ideal hour capacity for each team member, summed up to calculate total potential team hours available for the sprint.

While the group has 408 ideal hours available in the sprint, based upon these factors of utilization and time away from the real work of the sprint, the team should be OK to take on around 229 ideal hours of tasks.

If your team is mature enough to have established a consistent story point velocity, this worksheet will also give you a sense of how many story points you can handle in the upcoming sprint, based upon some level of increase or decrease relative to historical capacity.   In my example, the time out of the office reduces the potential of the group by 15%.  Since the team average velocity at full force has been running at 35 story points, that 15% reduction would result in a recommendation to take on 5 fewer points than they might typically sign up for.

Share on facebook
Facebook
Share on twitter
Twitter
Share on linkedin
LinkedIn

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recent Posts

In The Zone with Marcin Zasepa

Welcome to the second in our new series, ‘in the zone’, a collection of conversations with CTO’s within the CTO Zone community. Each week we’ll be discussing the latest trends, insights gained from there experiences, and future predictions for their industry. This week we’d like to welcome Marcin Zasepa, CTO at Homegate AG in Switzerland. Every episode will be approximately 30 minutes

Read More »

In The Zone with Sasha Bilton

Welcome to the first in our new series, ‘in the zone’, a collection of conversations with CTO’s within the CTO Zone community. Each week we’ll be discussing the latest trends, insights gained from there experiences, and future predictions for their industry. This week we’d like to welcome Sasha Bilton. Every episode will be approximately 30 minutes long, and we aim

Read More »

Case Study: DAZN Data Engineering

Find out how 101 Ways helped DAZN improve their existing data warehouse as well as planning and setting the foundations of the new cloud-based data platform. Click here to download the full case study. Get in touch with a member of the 101 Ways team if you would like to discuss ways in which we can help you and your company

Read More »

Search the Blog

Agile Management Made Easy!

All About Agile

By Kelly Waters

“’Agile’ is one of the biggest buzzwords of the last decade. Agile methods often come across as rather more complicated than they really are. This book is an attempt to unravel that complexity. To simplify the concepts. This book breaks the concepts into small bite-sized pieces that are easy to understand and easy to implement and delivers the message in a friendly and conversational style. Allaboutagile.com is one of the most popular blogs about agile on the web. ”

Kelly Waters

Agile 101 is available to purchase. GAME ON!

Agile 101

Emma Hopkinson-Spark

“Whilst there are lots of ways you can vary the game depending on the teams you have and the learning outcomes you want, the basic flow of the game play is common to all.”
Emma Hopkinson-Spark

Why did we make the game?

How to play the game?

London

101 Ways Limited
41 Corsham Street
London
N1 6DR
United Kingdom

Manchester

101 Ways Limited
No.1 Spinningfields
Quay Street
Manchester
M3 3JE
United Kingdom

Amsterdam

101 Ways BV
Weesperstraat 61-105
1018 VN Amsterdam
Netherlands

Contact Us

If you would like to get in touch with one of the team at 101 Ways, then please fill out the form below or email us at contact-us@101ways.com.