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Re: [scrumdevelopment] Failed and Challenged Projects (Re: Agile Method Research Study)

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  • Cass Dalton
    He didn t say projects don t have duration. He said that the x axis on the plot was time not duration. In otherwords, you move on the x axis as the project
    Message 1 of 41 , Jul 23, 2013
      He didn't say projects don't have duration.  He said that the x axis on the plot was time not duration.  In otherwords, you move on the x axis as the project progresses, not that the x axis is the duration of the project for which that particular point on the graph is plotted.

      On Tue, Jul 23, 2013 at 10:43 AM, woynam <woyna@...> wrote:

      I've seen *many* projects that looked like hurricanes. Lots of fear and uncertainty. When the were "finished", they left a giant mess that was expensive to clean up. :-)

      I don't quite understand why you think projects don't have duration. For accounting purposes, we have to track the start and end dates of the projects. Of course, the end date may keep moving, but eventually the project is closed, even if it's canceled.

      Sure, we often make somewhat arbitrary decisions about whether a certain piece of functionality belongs in one project or another. It's important for the accountants, but for us, meh. In general, we try to keep the projects short, so we can declare success, and move on.

      What said, we are not what one would consider a pure agile shop, at least from the perspective of having a single product backlog. We maintain a prioritized project backlog, with each project containing a number of epics.


      --- In scrumdevelopment@yahoogroups.com, Laurent Bossavit <lolists@...> wrote:
      > Hi Mark,
      > > I never interpreted the curve to mean that estimates get tighter as time goes on. I interpreted the graph as stating that the actual cost is closer to the estimated cost as the project duration gets shorter.
      > Eh?
      > That's a... very creative interpretation. I just double-checked, and in all representations of this graph that I'm aware of, the horizontal axis is labeled "time", not "duration".
      > > A one iteration project is not likely to deviate much from the initial estimates.
      > If this reasoning were accurate, there would be no such thing as "five minute development tasks" that balloon into week-long nightmares.
      > All these arguments are predicated, too, on the outlandish assumption that there is such a thing as the "real" duration of a project - that software development efforts are like hurricanes, which are also often represented as having a "cone of uncertainty" - we can't predict them for lack of precise enough simulation, but they are fully deterministic and unaffected by our forecasts. (Also, hurricane cones are narrow at the start and wider at the end, which is the correct way to represent them.)
      > In software, the hurricane looks at the cones that predicts where it will make landfall, and may well change course based on that information, often to the vexation of all concerned. ("Since we are on track here, I'm briefly borrowing one of your engineers for another project" - words actually spoken to me once by a former boss.)
      > Cheers,
      > Laurent

    • Cass Dalton
      That s exactly the point. Here, we are defining the end as the ACTUAL end when you stop charging your time. When you think you re going to be done in 2 weeks
      Message 41 of 41 , Jul 29, 2013
        That's exactly the point.  Here, we are defining the end as the ACTUAL end when you stop charging your time.  When you think you're going to be done in 2 weeks (the estimate) but you don't finish for 2 months (the actual end), you obviously have some amount of uncertainty in your estimate even if you don't realize it.  That uncertainty is supposed to be reflected in the cone, but in practice, that cone doesn't taper; it is hangs around your estimates like a thundercloud until you stop charging your time to it.

        On Tue, Jul 23, 2013 at 10:58 AM, Yves Hanoulle <mailing@...> wrote:

        2013/7/22 Cass Dalton <cassdalton73@...>


        The high level concept that the cone portrays (estimation uncertainty is IN GENERAL higher the the farther away you are from the end) is true.  
        well  you have to keep in mind that there is a BIG difference between being close to the end and thinking you are close to the end.

        However, the shape of the cone is based completely on someone's subjective theory, not on objective, empirical data.  That is the only real point that Laurent is trying to make.  He backs the argument up with intuition that 1) estimates in software development usually tend toward UNDER estimation, not OVER estimation, so the cone is not symmetrical as the original plot suggests, and that 2) the smooth tapering in the curve often doesn't happen as the last 90% of the work takes the last 40-50% of the time.

        Based on my experience in a traditional environment, I would say that the cone is rarely correct as presented in the plot.  Estimates are low at least 85% of the time, and the uncertainty often doesn't taper anything like how the plot suggests.  The times when estimates are high come from people who have been bitten by the always low estimates enough that the add in so much padding that their estimates are always unrealistically high.  And then you have the rule that the work will tend to fill the estimate, completely skewing any empirical evidence you think you have.  (The empirical evidence or lack thereof being the entire crux of Laurent's argument).

        On Mon, Jul 22, 2013 at 1:20 PM, George Dinwiddie <lists@...> wrote:


        On 7/22/13 12:46 PM, woynam wrote:
        > Sorry, but I'm not buying the plug. If it's wrong, please tell us why.

        You can read some of what Laurent says about it at

        > I agree that it's probably not "scientific". As we've been
        > discussing, getting real numbers is tough in the SW field.
        > Based on my experience, I'd say the cone is very close to correct,
        > given a fixed-sized starting backlog, which is almost a certainty in
        > a traditional contract-upfront project.

        Laurent questions that
        - the cone is presented a symetrical, with as much room for
        underestimating as overestimating, even though it's impossible to
        complete a project in negative time
        - that the cone seems to say that we necessarily get tighter estimates
        when we approach the end, though in reality some projects stay at "90%
        done" for a long time
        - that the cone is taken for empirical data, but is based on Boehm's
        subjective opinion

        - George

        > My most recent "large" project, a legacy mainframe migration project,
        > was 2.5 years long, and the final costs were 2.5 times higher than
        > our initial estimates. Of course, as we peeled away the layers of the
        > legacy system, there was more junk in there than even the biggest
        > pessimists imagined. You can see our burn-up chart in the 'Files'
        > section of this group (Burnup Chart Example.jpg).
        > Mark
        > --- In scrumdevelopment@yahoogroups.com, Yves Hanoulle <mailing@...> wrote:
        >> 2013/7/22 woynam <woyna@...>
        >>> **
        >>> The figures from Standish need to be taken with a *huge* piece of salt.
        >>> A project is considered a "failure" or "challenged" based on its ability
        >>> to come it at, or under budget. We all know in the agile community that the
        >>> initial budget estimate is the *worst* possible estimate, given that its
        >>> derived with the *least* amount of information.
        >> I assume that statement is based on the cone of uncertainty.
        >> I encourage you to read Laurent Bossavit's book
        >> https://leanpub.com/leprechauns
        >> You will learn that the cone is not scientific at all (yes I agree it feels
        >> right, well it's not correct..) I won't disclose at what level it is wrong,
        >> let me just say it feels counter intuïtive. (mm isn't agile about doing
        >> some counter intuïtive things ;-) )
        >>> Lately, I've made sure that I refer to projects as being "under budgeted",
        >>> rather than "over budget".
        >>> I'd like to see a report that critically reviews projects to determine if
        >>> the actual money spent was inline with the knowledge gained during the
        >>> project. In other words, if you discover something on day 100 that you
        >>> didn't know on day 1, would you have changed your estimate on day 1 if you
        >>> knew what you didn't know. I'm guessing these percentages would flip-flop.
        >>> Mark
        >>> --- In scrumdevelopment@yahoogroups.com, Diana Young <diana.young@>
        >>> wrote:
        >>>> That being said, the reality is that globally a lot of money is spent
        >>> each year on software development projects and the results are less than
        >>> stellar. The Standish Reports estimate that approximately 25% of all
        >>> software development project are considered failures, about 30% are
        >>> considered successful, and the remainder are challenged in some way

        Want to speak at AgileDC October 8, 2013? http://agiledc.org/speak/
        * George Dinwiddie * http://blog.gdinwiddie.com
        Software Development http://www.idiacomputing.com
        Consultant and Coach http://www.agilemaryland.org

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