Everyone loves a project that comes in ahead of schedule and under budget. But if you consistently too under budget, people will accuse you of sandbagging your estimates and accuse you of being a little too cautious.

This caught me once. We sized a project using the estimates as a range technique, and convinced management to use the upper numbers.

agile-estimate-as-a-range

We then estimated our team velocity and again, used a conservative number around how fast we thought we could go.

agile-estimation-double-whammy

Turns out we the project was simpler than we thought, and we ended up going faster than we thought we could go, and came in way ahead of where we thought we were going to be. Great news!

Now, I would way rather be on this side of a project (ahead of schedule and under budget) than the other. But when I look back and wondered why our numbers were so big I realized were conservative in our estimates twice:

  • Once for the estimates.
  • Once for the team velocity.

It’s not the end of the world. This was a really scary project, and our inception deck highlighted a lot of unknowns and first times for the company. There was also some fear and pressure to get things right. But I didn’t quite appreciate at the time that we were sizing conservatively twice here.

I don’t regret sizing it this way. Hindsight is always 20/20.

The more interesting question is now that we are aware of it, what will we do next time.

Happy planning!