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The Vaguely Right Agile Release Forecast

“It is better to be vaguely right than exactly wrong.”– Carveth Read. Oftentimes when we have a lot of information to help us make a decision we feel obliged to believe the outcome that information provides. After all, more information must mean a more accurate outcome, right? Put another way, when confronted with what is […]

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February 13, 2017

“It is better to be vaguely right than exactly wrong.”– Carveth Read.

Oftentimes when we have a lot of information to help us make a decision we feel obliged to believe the outcome that information provides. After all, more information must mean a more accurate outcome, right? Put another way, when confronted with what is perceived to be only a scant amount of upfront information, we tend to shy away from the outcome it delivers. But being precise only leaves you to be exactly wrong if anything strays from what is expected. It may make more sense to forge down a path that feels vaguely right if expectations are managed properly.

What does this mean in the world of agile release delivery? Agile does not espouse creating a plan and then doing everything possible to ensure we stick to that original plan. So then how can we plan for a release given these constraints?

The idea behind a release forecast is rather straightforward: The total amount of work remaining divided by the team velocity indicates when the work is forecast to be completed. Oftentimes this is displayed using a release burnup (see chart).perf
However, to use and interpret the release burnup properly, several assumptions and expectations must be considered – these assumptions, along with what seems like a limited amount of information is what makes all of this seem “vaguely right” and (for some) not precise enough to be useful. However, these assumptions must be considered when tracking release progress:

The information a release forecast conveys is not intended to be precise. Instead, it is intended to be vaguely right. And in the world of uncertainty and complexity, I’ll take vaguely right over exactly wrong anytime.

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