How To Help Management Forecast Progress in Agile

“My current client, like so many before, are asking “what percent complete are we?”. This is such a legacy waterfall question, assuming that we really understand what’s left and that our done state will not change. I am trying to educate them to instead ask “what value is remaining?” and understanding how to determine when/if to move to another value stream. What are your experiences with this issue?”

Hi Dwayne,

I don’t think this is a legacy waterfall question. The people paying for our services deserve to know the answer to this question, and the people providing the services should be able to easily answer it.

In an agile world, *how* we go about in answering it is significantly different than the waterfall world, and is based on data. Here is a straw man example:

The team has a backlog. The backlog has been estimated at a high level. Let’s assume, for the sake of discussion, the backlog is 500 story points total. Let’s also assume the team’s velocity is 50 points per sprint. This means it will take around 10 sprints for the team to be done, assuming little changes.

Things can change, and things do change, and if/when things change, the forecast changes, since forecasts are based on the best available information we have at the time.

So let’s assume the team is merrily running along, finishing ‘potentially shippable’ product at the end of every sprint, and they have finished 3 sprints/150 points. You can tell your stakeholders, “Based on what we know today, and the team’s current velocity, it looks like we are around 30% complete”

The big difference between a waterfall “30% complete” and an agile “30% complete” is that the waterfall 30% complete is based on a phase being done, and an agile 30% complete is based on 30% of the deliverables actually having been designed, built, tested, demonstrated, and pretty close to ready to go.

Based on % complete and value delivered (output and outcome) our business partners will be armed with the information they need to make the decision to continue building more value in the current stream or not.

Hope this helps.

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