#NoEstimates reimagines the classic approach to securing funding with a combination of budgeting and a “value to actual cost” feedback loop. Classically an estimate for a project or product is established at the beginning of work and refined periodically. That estimate is an approximation of the cost of work (component, project, product) based on what is known and extrapolated into the future.  #NoEstimates envisions an environment in which work continues as long as the value outweighs the cost (including opportunity costs). (more…)


There are many levels of estimation including budgeting, high-level estimation and task planning (detailed estimation).  We can link a more classic view of estimation to  the Agile planning onion popularized by Mike Cohn.   In the Agile planning onion, strategic planning is on the outside of the onion and the planning that occurs in the daily sprint meetings at the core of the onion. Each layer closer to the core relates more to the day-to-day activity of a team. The #NoEstimates movement eschew developing story- or task-level estimates and sometimes at higher levels of estimation. As you get closer to the core of the planning onion the case for the #NoEstimates becomes more compelling. (more…)

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The Software Process and Measurement Cast 372 features our interview with Vasco Duarte. Vasco returns to the podcast to discuss his new book, #NoEstimates Book.  In the interview, Vasco and I discussed the underlying concepts behind #NoEstimates and how the concept has matured. If you are interested in project management, estimation and delivering value, the ideas that Vasco discusses will be both controversial and valuable. If we paraphrase Shakespeare, then Estimates or #NoEstimates has to be the question. Let’s answer it!

Introducing Vasco:

Vasco wants to transform product development organizations into product business organizations. He does that by focusing the work of the product development teams on the end-to-end life-cycle of their products. From Concept to Cash and Back!

Vasco Duarte is currently a Managing Partner at Oikosofy.

Product Manager, Scrum Master, Project Manager, Director, Agile Coach are only some of the roles that he has taken in software development organizations. Having worked in the software industry since 1997, and Agile practitioner since 2004. He has worked in small, medium and large software organizations as an Agile Coach or leader in agile adoption at those organizations.

Vasco was one of the leaders and catalysts of Agile methods and Agile culture adoption at Avira, Nokia and F-Secure.

You can read more from Vasco on his blog: http://SoftwareDevelopmentToday.com and join him on twitter: @duarte_vasco

Twitter: http://twitter.com/duarte_Vasco

Scrum Master Toolbox Podcast: http://scrum-master-toolbox.com/

NoEstimates book: http://noestimatesbook.com/

Call to Action!

Review the SPaMCAST on iTunes, Stitcher or your favorite podcatcher/player and then share the review! Help your friends find the Software Process and Measurement Cast. After all, friends help friends find great podcasts!

Re-Read Saturday News

The readers have spoken and next week we will begin the re-read of How to Measure Anything, Finding the Value of “Intangibles in Business” Third Edition by Douglas W. Hubbard. Like The Mythical Man-Month that we completed last week, the version we are reading is not the same version I originally read in 2007. Check out the introduction to the next re-read at Software Process and Measurement Blog.


Upcoming Events

Details on 2016 Conferences that include QAI Quest and ISMA12 to name a few in a few weeks.


The next Software Process and Measurement Cast will feature our essay #NotImplementedNoValue. The twelve principles that underpin the Agile Manifesto include several that link the concept of value to the delivery of working software. The focus on working software stems from one of the four values, “Working software over comprehensive documentation,” which is a reaction to projects and programs that seem to value reports and PowerPoint presentations more than putting software in the hands of users. For a typical IT organization that develops, enhances and maintains the software that the broader organization uses to do their ultimate business, value is only delivered when software can be used in production

We will also have a new column from the Software Sensei and will revisit Gene Hughson with an entry from the Form Follows Function Blog!

Shameless Ad for my book!

Mastering Software Project Management: Best Practices, Tools and Techniques co-authored by Murali Chematuri and myself and published by J. Ross Publishing. We have received unsolicited reviews like the following: “This book will prove that software projects should not be a tedious process, neither for you or your team.” Support SPaMCAST by buying the book here. Available in English and Chinese.

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The Software Process and Measurement Cast 369 features our essay on stand-up meetings.  Stand-up meetings are a combination of tactical planning on steroids and the perfect start to a great day. Stand-up meetings are one the easiest Agile practices to adopt and often one the easiest to mess up.

Also, this week features we have Kim Pries and his Software Sensei column.  Kim discusses what it takes to move toward mastery. Mastery implies more than just being good at any particular task. The Software Sensei provides a path forward.

Gene Hughson brings the first of his discussions on the topic of #NoEstimates from his Form Follows Function blog! Specifically Gene provided a more detail and background on his essay #NoEstimates – Questions, Answers, and Credibility.


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The Software Process and Measurement Cast features our interview with Woody Zuill.  We talked about the concept and controversy swirling around #NoEstimates. Even if the concept is a bridge too far for you, the conversation is important because we talked about why thinking and questioning is a critical survival technique. As Woody points out, it is important to peer past the “thou musts” to gain greater understanding of what you should be doing!

Woody Zuill has been programming computers for 30+ years. Over the last 15+ years he has worked as an Agile Coach, Trainer, and Extreme Programmer and now works with Industrial Logic as a Trainer/Coach/Consultant for Agile and Lean software development. He believes code must be simple, clean, and maintainable to realize the Agile promise of Responding to Change.

Contact Information
Mob Programming: http://mobprogramming.org/
Blog: http://zuill.us/WoodyZuill/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/woodyzuill

Call to action!

I have a challenge for the Software Process and Measurement Cast listeners for the next few weeks.  I would like you find one person that you think would like the podcast and introduce them to the cast.  This might mean sending them the URL or teaching how to download podcasts.  If you like the podcast and think it is valuable they will be thankful to you for introducing them to the Software Process and Measurement Cast! Thank you in advance!

Re-Read Saturday News

We have just begun the Re-Read Saturday of The Mythical Man-Month. We are off to a rousing start beginning with the Tar Pit.   Get a copy now and start reading!

The Re-Read Saturday and other great articles can be found on the Software Process and Measurement Blog.


Remember: We just completed the Re-Read Saturday of Eliyahu M. Goldratt and Jeff Cox’s The Goal: A Process of Ongoing Improvement, which began on February 21nd. What did you think?  Did the re-read cause you to read The Goal back up for a refresher? Visit the Software Process and Measurement Blog and review the whole re-read.

Note: If you don’t have a copy of the book, buy one.  If you use the link below it will support the Software Process and Measurement blog and podcast.

Dead Tree Version or Kindle Version 

Upcoming Events

Software Quality and Test Management 

September 13 – 18, 2015

San Diego, California


I will be speaking on the impact of cognitive biases on teams!  Let me know if you are attending!


More on other great conferences soon!


Next SPaMCast

The next Software Process and Measurement Cast is a magazine installment.  We will feature our essay on Agile Testing. The flow of testing is different in an Agile project.  In many cases, organizations have either not recognized the change in flow, or have created Agile/waterfall hybrids with test groups holding onto waterfall patterns.  While some of the hybrids are driven by mandated contractual relationships, the majority are driven by lack of understanding or fear of how testing should flow in Agile projects.

We will also have new installments from Jeremy Berriault’s QA Corner.  Jeremy, is a leader in the world of quality assurance and testing and was originally interviewed on the Software Process and Measurement Cast 274. The third column features Steve Tendon discussing more of his great new bookHyper-Productive Knowledge Work Performance.


Shameless Ad for my book!

Mastering Software Project Management: Best Practices, Tools and Techniques co-authored by Murali Chematuri and myself and published by J. Ross Publishing. We have received unsolicited reviews like the following: “This book will prove that software projects should not be a tedious process, neither for you or your team.” Support SPaMCAST by buying the book here.

Available in English and Chinese.


#NoEstimates is a lightening rod.


Estimation is one of the lightening rod issues in software development and maintenance. Over the past few years the concept of #NoEstimates has emerged and has become a movement within the Agile community. Due to its newness, #NoEstimates has several camps revolving around a central concept. This essay begins the process of identifying and defining a core set of concepts in order to have a measured discussion.  A  shared language accross the gamut of estimating ideas whether Agile or not including #NoEstimates is critical for comparing both sets of concepts.  We begin our exploration of the ideas around the #NoEstimates concepts by establishing a context that includes classic estimatimation and #NoEstimates.

Classic Estimation Context: Estimation as a topic is often a synthesis of three related, but different concepts. The three concepts are budgeting, estimation and planning. Becasue these three conccepts are often conflated it is important to understand tthe relationship between the three.  These are typical in a normal commercial organization, however these concepts might be called different things depending your business model. An estimate is a finite approximation of cost, effort and/or duration based on some basis of knowledge (this is known as a basis of estimation). The flow of activity conflated as estimation often runs from budget, to project estimation to planning. In most organizations, the act of generating a finite approximation typically begins as a form of portfolio management in order to generate a budget for a department or group. The budgeting process helps make decisions about which pieces of work are to be done. Most organizations have a portfolio of work that is larger than they can accomplish, therefore they need a mechanism to prioritize. Most portfolio managers, whether proponents of an Agile or a classic approach, would defend using value as a key determinant of prioritization. Value requires having some type of forecast of cost and benefit of the project over some timeframe. Once a project enters a pipeline in a classic organization. an estimate is typically generated.  The estimate is generally believed to be more accurate than the orgianal  budget due to the information gathered as the project is groomed to begin. Plans breakdown stories into tasks often with personal assigned, an estimate of effort generated at the task level and sum the estimates into higher-level estimates. Any of these steps can (but should not) be called estimation. The three -level process described above, if misused, can cause several team and organizational issues. Proponents of the #NoEstimates movement often classify these issues as estimation pathologies; we will explore these “pathologies” in later essays.

#NoEstimates Context:  There are two camps macro camps in the #NoEstimate movement (the two camps probably reflect more of continuum of ideas rathe than absolutes).  The first camp argues that a team should break work down into small chunks and then immediately begin completing those small chunks (doing the highest value first). The chunks would build up quickly to a minimum viable product (MVP) that can generate feedback, so the team can hone its ability to deliver value. I call this camp the “Feedback’ers”, and luminaries like Woody Zuill often champion this camp. A second camp begins in a similar manner – by breaking the work into small pieces, prioritizing on value (and perhaps risk), delivering against a MVP to generate feedback – but they measure throughput. Throughput is a measure of how many units of work (e.g. stories or widgets) a team can deliver in a specific period of time. Continuously measuring the throughput of the team provides a tool to understand when work needs to start in order for to be delivered within a period time. Average throughput is used to provide the team and other stakeholders with a forecast of the future. This is very similar to throughput measured used in Kanban. People like Vasco Duarte (listen to my interview with Vasco) champion the second camp, which I tend to call the “Kanban’ers”.  I recently heard David Anderson, the Kanban visionary, discuss a similar #NoEstimates position using throughput as a forecasting tool. Both camps in the #NoEstimates movement eschew developing story- or task-level estimates. The major difference is on the use of throughput to provide forecasting which is central to bottom-up estimating and planning at the lowest level of the classic estimation continuum.

When done correctly, both #NoEstimates and classic estimation are tools to generate feedback and create guidance for the organization. In its purest form #NoEstimates uses functionality to generate feedback and to provide guidance about what is possible. The less absolutist “Kanban’er” form of #NoEstimates uses both functional software and throughput measures as feedback and guidance tools. Classic estimation tools use plans and performance to the plan to generate feedback and guidance. The goal is usually the same, it is just that the mechanisms are very different. With an established context and vocabulary exlore the concepts more deeply.

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

Last year I said that I learned something from every interview I did. I can say the same thing again this year. I think the interviews I did this year continue to reflect the evolution how work is done in IT organizations. Agile, lean and Kanban still are growing and evolving. Older frameworks are either adapting (or being adapted) to newer frameworks or fading in relevance. While I am out running and listening to podcasts earlier this week I heard someone make the statement that as processes age they typically don’t crash and burn, but rather fade into irrelevance. (I suspect this was from the Gist Podcast but . . .)  I think the blurring of the lines between Agile and lean will be an continuing trend to follow in 2015, but at the same time, I continue to scan the edges of acceptable development behavior to try to identify the next wave. Having been in this industry for more than a few years I can guarantee that there will be a next wave (and it will be cool)!  Do you have ideas about what will be the next big thing?

The top 10 most downloaded interviews were:

  1. SPaMCAST 310 – Mike Burrows, Kanban from the Inside
  2. SPaMCAST 318 – Rob Cross, Big Data and Data Analytics In Software Development
  3. SPaMCAST 302- Larry Maccherone, Measuring Agile
  4. SPaMCAST 312 – Alex Neginsky, A Leader and Practitioner’s View of Agile
  5. SPaMCAST 314 – Crispin, Gregory, More Agile Testing
  6. SPaMCAST 282 – Ben Linders and Luis Gonçalves on Retrospectives
  7. SPaMCAST 300 – Vasco Duarte, #NoEstimates
  8. SPaMCAST 306 – Luis Gonçalves, No More Performance Appraisals
  9. SPaMCAST 316 – David Rico, Agile Cost of Quality
  10. SPaMCAST 290 – Jan Beaver, The Agile Team Handbook

Every other week I publish and essay and recently include one or more columns from SPaMCAST contributors.  The top 5 Essays were:

  1. SPaMCAST 281 – Value Chain Mapping, Kim Pries The Software Sensei on Big Data
  2. SPaMCAST 295 – TDD, Software Sensei, Cognitive Load
  3. SPaMCAST 309 – Agile User Acceptance Testing
  4. SPaMCAST 313 – Initial Backlogs
  5. SPaMCAST 315 – Scrum Masters, Hughson, Form Follows Function

I want to say a major thank you to Gene Hughson, Kim Pries, Jo Ann Sweeney and Steve Tendon who provided INCREDIBLE columns for the Cast during 2014.  I suspect that the success of this podcast in 2014 is a reflection of their participation.

On January 29th 2007, SPaMCAST 001 was posted (show zero posted on Jan 18th) with an interview with Craig McKnight on Process and Product Quality Assurance (check it out).  At the end of January 2015 we will begin year 9 of the podcast.  Are there topics and interviews you would like us to do in year 9?  Are you interested in writing a column?  Are you interesting in sponsoring the Cast?  Send an email and we will set up a call to discuss any of these topics!

Happy New Year!



Listen to SPaMCAST 300

Show 300! Show Zero was published on January 7, 2007. 2,738 days later, we feature our interview with Vasco Duarte. We discussed #NoEstimates, which evokes a great deal of passion.  The interview will embraces that passion and we sort through the noise to get to the core of the idea which is highly useful despite all of the controversy. #NoEstimates asks teams, product owners and leaders to rethink how they predict project performance.  Change is hard but Vasco describes a less painful path to predicting delivery.

Vasco’s Bio:

Product manager, scrum master, project manager, director, and Agile coach are only some of the roles that Vasco has taken in software development organizations. That experience has been gained by having worked in the software industry since 1997, and being an Agile practitioner since 2004. Vasco has worked in small, medium and large software organizations as an Agile Coach or leader in Agile adoption. He was one of the leaders and catalysts of Agile methods and Agile culture adoption at Avira, Nokia and F-Secure.

Vasco’s blog can be found at http://SoftwareDevelopmentToday.com

Follow Vasco on Twitter @duarte_vasco


Software Process and Measurement Cast number 301 will feature our essay on technical debt. Technical debt is the work not done or the shortcuts taken when delivering a product. We all take shortcuts, but at what cost?

Upcoming Events

I will be attending Agile 2014 in Orlando, July 28 through August 1, 2014.  It would be great to get together with SPaMCAST listeners, let me know if you are attending.

I will be presenting at the International Conference on Software Quality and Test Management in San Diego, CA on October 1.  I have a great discount code!!!! Contact me if you are interested!

I will be presenting at the North East Quality Council 60th Conference October 21st and 22nd in Springfield, MA.

More on all of these great events in the near future! I look forward to seeing all SPaMCAST readers and listeners that attend these great events!

The Software Process and Measurement Cast has a sponsor.

As many you know I do at least one webinar for the IT Metrics and Productivity Institute (ITMPI) every year. The ITMPI provides a great service to the IT profession. ITMPI’s mission is to pull together the expertise and educational efforts of the world’s leading IT thought leaders and to create a single online destination where IT practitioners and executives can meet all of their educational and professional development needs. The ITMPI offers a premium membership that gives members unlimited free access to 400 PDU accredited webinar recordings, and waives the PDU processing fees on all live and recorded webinars. The Software Process and Measurement Cast some support if you sign up here. All the revenue our sponsorship generates goes for bandwidth, hosting and new cool equipment to create more and better content for you. Support the SPaMCAST and learn from the ITMPI.

Shameless Ad for my book!

Mastering Software Project Management: Best Practices, Tools and Techniques co-authored by Murali Chematuri and myself and published by J. Ross Publishing. We have received unsolicited reviews like the following: “This book will prove that software projects should not be a tedious process, neither for you or your team.” Support SPaMCAST by buying the book here.

Available in English and Chinese.



#NoEstimates  . . .Yes or No?

#NoEstimates . . .Yes or No?


Hand Drawn Chart Saturday!

When I published An Estimation Framework Is Required In Complex Environments, several people that I respect, including Luis Gonçalves (interviewed on the SPaMCAST 282 with Ben Linders), begged to differ with my conclusion that a framework was ever required.  Luis made an impassioned plea for #NoEstimates.  The premise of #NoEstimates is that estimates enforce a plan and plans many times are overcome by changes that range across both technology and business needs.

Vasco Duarte, a leading proponent of #NoEstimate describes the process as follows:

  1. Select the highest value piece of work the team needs to do.
  2. Break that piece of work down into small components.  Vasco uses the term risk-neutral chunks, which means pieces of work that if they don’t get delivered in the first attempt will not put the project at risk.
  3. Develop each piece of work according to the definition of done. #NoEstimates makes a strong case that unless done means anything other than usable by the end customers, the project is not getting the feedback needed to avoid negative surprises.
  4. Iterate and refactor. Continue until the product or enhancement meets the organization’s definition of done.

Estimates are part of a continuum that begins with budgeting, continues to estimating and terminates at planning.   Organizations build strategic plans based on bringing new or enhanced products to market.  For example, a retailer might commit to opening x number of stores in the next year.  If public, once publicly stated, the organization will need to perform to those commitments or face a wide range of consequences.  Based on experience gathered by working in several retailer’s IT organizations, I know that even a single store is a major effort that includes store operations, purchasing, legal and IT.  Missing an opening date causes embarrassment and typically, large financial penalties (paying workers who aren’t working, rescheduling advertising and possible tax penalties not to mention the impact to stock prices).  Organizations need to budget and estimate at a strategic level.

Where the #NoEstimates approach makes sense is at the planning level.  The #NoEstimates process empowers teams (product owner, Scrum Master/coach and development personnel) to work on the highest value work first and to develop a predictable capacity to deliver work.  The results generated by the team provide feedback to evaluate the promises made though organization-level budgets and estimates.

When performance is at odds with what has been promised business choices should be made.  Choices can range from involving other teams (when this makes sense) to accepting the implications of not meeting the commitments made by the organization.

Does #NoEstimates make sense?  Yes, the process and concepts embodied by #NoEstimates fits solidly into a framework of budgeting, estimating and planning.   Without a framework to codify the use of #NoEstimates and to govern organizational behavior, getting to the point of making hard business choices will generate pressure to fall back to command and control fashion.

Note:  I am working on scheduling an interview and discussion with Luis and Vasco on the Software Process and Measurement Cast to discuss #NoEstimates.