Spotlight | Expert's opinion

Question Of The Month - What techniques can you use to make better estimations about time and cost in an agile environment?

Every month we answer one pressing question from one of you. Read on to find the answer! Discover the question of this month.

This is November’s question of the month:

What techniques can you use to prioritize projects and make better estimations about time and cost in an agile environment?

Do you know the answer? In this article we’ll reveal a tip of the iceberg.

By now you have probably already heard about lean and agile development. As analysts it is important to know how this will influence the way we work.

Sometimes it seems like the analyst role has taken on a lesser importance in agile projects. Code fast, fail fast, only working software counts, etc. - you know what we mean... 

Make no mistake - analysis skills are of key importance for agile teams as well. They are needed to understand the problem and complexity of a project and they are needed to be able to respond to the rapidly changing world we live in today.

Finding the most important goal of the project

As a business analyst, a first step is to find an answer to the question: what do we want to achieve most with this project?

Although tempting, it is not possible to accomplish everything at once, especially in an agile environment with a cross-functional team. We work in iterations and must select our main point of focus for each iteration. Choosing a point of focus depends on the most important goals of the project.

There are different techniques that help you in selecting the next best feature to implement. Ideally, they combine a size metric and a value metric - think of pick charts, dot voting and story maps.

These are only examples. You can discover a lot more techniques in our course Essential Agile Analysis Skills, but for now we’ll take out one example to explain the goal of this phase. 

Desirability, feasibility and viability analysis

Have you heard of a desirability, feasibility and viability analysis? This technique combines both a size (feasibility) and value metric (viability), and what’s more, considers the outside-in perspective -your customers and competitors- as well (the desirability metric). By looking at the interaction of desirability, viability and feasibility you will discover the sweet spot of innovation. Exactly where you want to be! 

  • A desirable solution (the desirability metric): one that your customer really wants.

  • A feasible solution (the size metric): one that builds on the strengths of your current operational capabilities.

  • A viable solution (the value metric): one with a sustainable business model.

Feasability, desirability and viability matrix

All three metrics are important. If you miss any of these when implementing your idea, it becomes riskier and costlier.

Not using techniques such as the one just introduced will make the project more likely to fail. That is why a business analyst needs techniques such as this for estimation of time, scope and prioritization. When we do this, we can avoid chaos and confusion in our team and decide on a clear objective for each iteration. Each iteration will generate a valuable result. This way you can maximize the immediate and long-term value of your project.

This technique is not necessarily better than others. It is perfectly possible another technique works better for your team or company. Obviously, one of the benefits of working in an agile environment is being able to experiment with something new every iteration.

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