Velocity Data Not Available: 10 steps to estimate feature delivery dates

A technique for estimating feature delivery dates when velocity data is not available but the scope of features/epics/stories is well defined.

Owen Chung

Problem

On a recent engagement, the product owner requested estimated delivery dates on a feature set. Planning discussions required this information to meet portfolio delivery controls. The challenge however, was a lack of data on the features completed per sprint.

Solution

The scope of features were defined but not sized or sequenced. Like a story grooming session, all those involved got in a room with whiteboards and post it notes. The next step was to use a combination of

  • relative feature sizing
  • feature sequencing
  • optimistic/pessimist feature completion rates

to derive an estimated deliver date.

Sounds great - what do I need?
  • The delivery team
  • A whiteboard
  • Whiteboard markers
  • List of features to estimate
  • A physical wall
  • Post it notes (highly recommend A5 sized which are easier to read from a distance)
  • 60-90 minutes (depending on number of features and how much discussion required).

Process

Outcome of technique

The primary outcome was an estimated date range the product owner could start planning conversations around. The secondary benefit was the collective team learning about what the features were, and the relative sizing and sequencing of features.

Takeaway

If you need to estimate delivery dates on a feature set with no velocity data give this technique a try. Grab your team, arm yourself with some post it notes, a wall, a white board, some markers and get discussing and writing together.