A good framework helps Agile and waterfall teams flow together.

A good framework helps Agile and waterfall teams flow together.

A process framework provides a common language and outline to estimate.  The outline provides a scaffold into which project or program specific processes and functions can be inserted. An estimation framework will define a structure for estimation, the relationship between how estimation is being performed and both other engineering processes and program and portfolio level processes.  For example, in a program with Agile and waterfall teams, a framework would define how estimates generated by the different teams would relate and integrate.  A framework helps estimation become a repeatable process and also to help organizations institutionalize estimation.

A repeatable process, defined as a common set of actions that ensure the efficient use of resources and reduce variation, provides the routines needed for teams focus their creativity on delivering value rather than defining process. Reducing variation does not mean that Agile teams have to estimate the same way as waterfall team, rather that they follow a process that is appropriate to Agile methods. For example Agile teams leveraging a framework that called for estimates might use a combination of story points, planning poker and capacity while waterfall teams used parametric estimation processes. The more complex the project or program environment, the more useful frameworks are in reducing variability as teams do not have determine how estimates should be done and how they should integrate.

An institutionalized process is a process or set of processes that have become part and parcel of how team or organization delivers value. An estimation framework helps both teams and organizations know when and where to perform estimation so that performing the process is ingrained. Processes that are institutionalized don’t revert to chaos or into redefinition mode when projects are stressed; muscle memory takes over and the work gets done in an appropriate manner.

An estimation framework in a complex (but typical) IT organization must account for the needs of not only Agile team and waterfall teams, but also project, programs and portfolios that have teams that are using different techniques. Couple that with project and program offices that have different reporting requirements (some regulatory and/or contractual) and estimation needs get complicated.  Defining a framework so that all parties understand what needs to happen, when it needs to happen and the information that needs to be shared is not just important, it is required.