Work Item estimates and beyond with Rational Team Concert 2.0

The Agile Planning tooling assists you in planning and executing release and development iterations. Development iterations are estimated using ideal hours entered inside a work item using its estimate fields. This document explains how these estimates are used and how they affect your planning.

How do I work with Estimates?

A work item estimate should represent your best guess of how much time it will take to complete a work item. Obviously, this depends on the kind of work. Take a small bug fix which only requires updating a text message. Your estimate for that might be 10 minutes. In contrast, a new feature might take a day to implement. However, it is not that trivial. At first, a bug might look easy to fix but later turns out to require more work, a new feature is implemented a lot faster than you thought initially. Let us look at the life-cycle of a work item. First, when you are assigned some work, the work item is new and no work has been done so far. As soon as you start working, the work item is in progress, but not yet done. At the end, the work item is done, meaning all work associated with the work item has been completed. The Agile Planning tooling allows you to define estimates for each of these life-cycle stages:

  1. Estimate – Work gets assigned to you and, without deep investigation, you guess how long it will take to work on it.
  2. Corrected Estimate – When a work item is in progress in might turn out that the initial estimate was wrong. Provide a corrected estimate to overwrite the initial one.
  3. Time Spent – Update the time spent value while you work on something. It says how much work was already spent, or in other words, how far away from finishing you are. This is particularly useful for work items with high estimates. The Agile Planning tooling will honor the time spent value, so that progress will be shown for a work item that has a time spent value assigned.
Having an initial estimate and a time spent value allows you to track how realistic the initial estimate was. There is a report available that plots the ratio of the initial estimate versus the time spent value for a team. The goal for every team should be to have the value oscillate around the value 1.

How Estimates work for you

Estimates enable planning. Take work load or progress computation. They can only provide realistic information when estimates are good. The same is true for planning work in the My Work view or the Iteration Plan editor. Have you ever struggled because there is too much work to do? Estimate well and your team lead will see how much work time you actually handle. Estimate well and the progress will tell you if you are falling behind, catching up, or are ahead your schedule. All together, estimating your work items will drastically improve planning and help the Agile Planning tooling to support you and your team lead in managing your work.

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