Gut Estimate Versus a Product Backlog Estimate

A few days ago a customer/product owner asked us for an estimate of the completion date for a project. None of the developers responded, so the Scrum Master is pressing for an estimate.

The state of our incomplete information is thus:

  • There is an incomplete product backlog, it contains almost every item for a first release with estimates in ideal days. It also contains all the backlog items for the second release, but with no extra information and no estimates.
  • At least 16 reports are just completely missing from the product backlog altogether.
  • We have use cases for almost everything in the first release, but not even high level use cases for the second release items.

The answer was easy we looked at the product backlog and came up with about 150 days for the first release backlog items. Our current velocity is about 60 ideal days per Sprint. So the estimate would be 2.5 more Sprints as of today and assuming everything in the Product Backlog still needs to be completed.

The Scrum Master thanked us for that effort, but then asked if we could just get a ‘gut check’ estimate on both releases. Our answer so far is still no, not enough information. Until we do an estimating effort on the second release items and get some information on the reports we can’t honestly give any sort of ‘gut’ estimate.

The plan tomorrow is to go through the second release product backlog items and estimate them one by one, probably just by asking questions of the product owner. This may take longer than the 1 hour planned for, but the team isn’t going to get an estimate any other way. ‘Gut’ estimates are just a slide back into the scary nether-world of Waterfall.