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10/14/2015  |   1:15 PM - 2:00 PM   |  Atlantic I

Avoiding the Time Trap

“Time” seems like a simple measure to use when planning and tracking projects. Most accounting systems track employees’ work hours. The resulting time measure is in essence a proxy for cost: Labor hours translate into dollars. However, if you have used time that has been tracked in that way to plan and estimate projects that depend on developers, testers, engineers, or other knowledge workers, you have probably found that your estimates aren’t as close to the actuals as you would like. If you have difficulty bringing projects in on schedule with the promised functionality, you might want to rethink the “time” you are using. The hours employees spend working is very useful for accounting and payroll purposes, but several major issues make it nearly impossible to use for creating accurate estimates or precisely tracking projects, especially in system development. Thus most agile developers have rejected the use of hours in place of story points, which tend to work well for many teams. However, there are several problems with relying solely on story points as a project’s only source of planning and tracking data. The primary issue with story points and velocity is that it is based on a subjective measure that is calibrated by each team based on previous team performance. It assumes that team membership is stable and a common reference point can be used to calibrate the definition of a story point, which is not always a valid assumption. In many organizations the development team's membership can change frequently and in larger projects, with multiple teams, there is no single clear definition of a story point. Using research done at the Software Engineering Institute (SEI) and experience gained working with organizations around the world; this presentation hopes to help others avoid the time trap by measuring only the time that matters, while conforming to the Agile Manifesto and Principles.

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Timothy Chick (Primary Presenter), Carnegie Mellon - Software Engineering Institute, tchick@sei.cmu.edu;
Prior to joining the SEI, he worked for Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR), as a project manager, leading software development projects and software process improvement efforts for the E-2C Hawkeye Program. Chick is currently a certified Project Management Professional (PMP), Scrum Master, Product Owner, and Mentor Coach. He also holds a Lean Six Sigma Black Belt certification and was a certified CMMI-DEV and CMMI-SVC instructor. He has published numerous technical reports and by-lined technical articles in top industry publications on managing and improving software organizations.

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