Use GridRank to estimate time and costs

Agile teams use GridRank to generate point estimates for their user stories


Situation: The scrum master has asked the development team to develop point estimates the user stories in the upcoming sprint. Time is tight because the team is behind schedule. When they meet, the team needs to produce estimates fast and all be in agreement.


Challenge: Development teams on Agile projects need to work faster and smarter. Developers want to devote as much time as possible to coding. When they estimate, everyone has to stop what they are doing, switch gears and go into meeting mode. For some, the estimation discussions are long-winded and unproductive.   How do you create estimates fast and without endless meetings?  How do you get consensus?  How do you avoid creating frustration?


Traditional Solution: The typical approach for point estimation on an Agile project is to bring the developers into a planning poker session. This approach is well documented and follows a simple process.  Basically, participants submit their opinions for each user story to the group and then they discuss areas of disagreements. As simple as it seems, planning poker has its drawbacks.  First, because the process walks through one story at a time, there is nothing that enforces consistent ranking of stories. This can lead to what we call hard grader syndrome; when one person ranks every story as hard. Further, when someone is a hard grader, it forces multiple discussions with that person on every story, which wastes time and produces serious frustration.  Another drawback is that the planning poker process puts stories into buckets for example — 1, 2, 4, 8, 10. But what if a story sits between a 4 and 8? You must pick one. Finally, planning poker requires that everyone must stop what they are doing and participate. But what if your developers are deep into coding? What if they are in a “zone?” Breaking that focus and concentration is disruptive and unproductive for any coder.

Let us show you a better way using GridRank!

Create an Agile Estimation Game
First, log into GridRank with Game Master permissions and select Create a new game.  In the window that appears (see below), select Weight Criteria from the Select Game drop-down.  This tells GridRank that our game is one where the results of the game will be weighted values for each option (i.e. user story) in the game.  Next, enter the name of the game and skip the Evaluation Factor for now.  Finally, enter “Story” into the Options Label field, because we are going to rank user stories.   Click Save.


Enter your Evaluation Factor
Evaluation factor is the factor that each player will use to weight user story.  In an Agile estimation game, it is common to have only one factor — Effort.  Enter “Effort” for the Evaluation Factor Name.  Click Save.  Note:  as an alternative, Agile teams have also ranked stories using Complexity as an additional evaluation factor.  To add another evaluation factor, click + Evaluation Factor at the top of the screen.

Enter your Options
Enter each of the user stories that will be ranked in the game. Weight Criteria games only require the name to be entered.  You can also select a color and upload an image for each story.  Note:  Agile teams often enter the URL from JIRA for each story so that when players are playing the game, they can click on it to read the full details of the story.  Remember to enter in all of the stories you plan to estimate.  Click Save.  


Click here to play this actual game now. This game is actually a list of stories that represent the enhancements that we are considering for GridRank’s next sprint.  After you play, come back here and we’ll discuss the calculations that GridRank creates and how you can use them to develop the estimates.  When using GridRank, players play their games independently and on a  schedule of their own choosing, thus, minimizing frustration and long-winded conversations and breaks the cycle of never-ending meetings.



Results Are Fast and Discussions Are Limited to Players with Outlying Scores
After all the players on the team have played their games, the Game Master goes into his dashboard, and clicks on Done to view the results.  If a player hasn’t played, there will be a red light next to his name.  GridRank computes the results from all the submitted plays.  The pie chart below shows a graphic result form the game, see Play on the iPhone/Pad has the highest weight%.  Below the pie chart is a table that GridRank produces to show the final score for each user story.  We’ll use the data from this table to create our estimates.  Note:   At any point, the Game Master can go back into the game and look at the plays looking for outliers.  Outliers typically indicate someone is in disagreement with the team or they didn’t fully understand the story that was being ranked.  The Game Master, at his discretion, can contact the player with the outlying score to ask for an explanation.  Thus, that long-winded back and forth discussion is minimized because they take place between Game Master and only the individuals that have outlying opinions. Often, we find that outliers exist because the player didn’t fully understand the story, and as a result of the conversation, the player usually goes back into GridRank and replays the options.



Export the Results from GridRank
Let’s use the results in the table above to produce the time and cost estimates.  First, go to the Results page, and click the Table icon in the left-hand sidebar.   That’ll bring up the Results table above.  Then, simply position the mouse in the upper left-hand corner of the table, click and drag to the lower right.  Doing this highlights the values to be copied as shown in the picture below.  Then, go to the browser menu, click Edit, then click Copy.  Now your results are in memory.



Paste the GridRank Results into an Excel Spreadsheet
Next, we’ll show you how to paste the results out to Excel.  Launch Excel, on your computer and open a blank worksheet.  Position your mouse in cell A2, then, go to the menu, click Edit, then click Paste.  Now the GridRank results are in the spreadsheet.  See figure below. 


Enter the Formula to Create Time Estimates
Next, we’ll show you how to create the time and cost estimates.  The strategy for producing estimates from this game relies upon the principle of the “Golden Estimate.”  The Golden Estimate is the one user story that someone believes is the most accurate, hence “golden.”  In the case of this game, we think the Binary Criteria story will take 40 hours and the team is supremely confident that this is accurate.  Now return,  return to Excel, enter in 40 into cell C4.  Then move to cell C5 and enter the formula “=B5/B$4*C$4”  Copy this formula down Column C for all of the stories.  Your spreadsheet now looks like the one below.


What Does the Entire Sprint Cost?
Remaining in Excel, we inserted a column to calculate the entire cost of the Sprint.  Using a labor rate of $150 per hour, we computed that the entire Sprint would cost $64452.  See the table below.  It’s not uncommon for teams at this juncture to raise or lower the Golden Estimate all within Excel.   Or in some cases, teams will go back into GridRank and adjust their plays increasing the distance between stories, in doing, they’ll have to be sure to manually update the %Weights in Excel.


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