One technique used by agile development teams is the idea of estimating product features using points. This has a few distinct advantages over estimating in physical units of time.
1. Estimating is very quick because it’s an intuitive estimate of a feature’s size.
2. An estimate in points indicates a feature’s size relative to another, and does not give the illusion of being precise.
3. Over time, and using consistent iterations (e.g. 2-week sprints), you get a strong feel for how many points a team can deliver in an iteration. Even if a team is bad at estimating, as long as they’re consistently bad, this makes a team’s commitments self-correcting.
Some agile teams use Fibonacci numbers to do this. Fibonacci numbers are a sequence where each number is the sum of the previous two, i.e:
1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21 …
Using Fibonacci adds an element of science to the concept of estimating using points, adding the laws of distribution as a dimension.
If you’re interested in understanding more about the scientific background of Fibonacci numbers – which weren’t invented for agile development by the way! – you might be interested to listen to this Radio 4 podcast on Fibonacci…
How to estimate your product backlog