This is the third post in a series about applying the Pomodoro Technique® to Scrum and for development.
Each post covers one of the Pomodoro Technique® objectives. The third objective is to Estimate the Effort for Activities.
All developers are used to giving estimates. Most developers are also aware of the problems related to giving accurate estimates. Especially, providing an estimate in calendar time can prove difficult, not to say impossible. Pomodoros offer an alternative approach that works very well with Scrum.
Find out how much effort an activity requires
Cut down on interruptions
Estimate the effort for activities
Make the Pomodoro more effective
Set up a timetable
Other possible objectives
When you start using the Pomodoro Technique® you become aware of how much time you actually spend on different tasks. I'm not sure whether this instantly improves estimations, but it has at least given me some insights into how I use my time. For example, I sometimes end up using half a day for something I thought would take half an hour.
Estimating in Pomodoros
Scrum encourages estimations in size: ideally in story points or some other abstract unit. However, people often get stuck halfway and use ideal days or ideal hours.
I find it easier to provide accurate estimates if I think in Pomodoros as it makes ideal hours more tangible. In addition, by now I have a vague idea of how many Pomodoros I complete in a day, so it doesn't really matter if estimates are given in ideal or actual time.
Putting the estimate as boxes representing available Pomodoros in the TODO sheet as proposed in the Pomodoro Technique® book works as a reminder at the daily standup. You can tell if you have spent more time than planned on a task, or if something has taken less time.
Thinking in Pomodoros makes it easier to estimate in ideal hours without relapsing to "real" time. As discussed in the previous post, the goal of Pomodoros is to cut down on interruptions, to focus 100% on the task at hand. In other words: ideal time.
The Pomodoro Technique® doesn't only help providing accurate estimates directly. Keeping track of how much time you spend on tasks have at least two other benefits:
- It helps you gradually improve estimations over time as you learn how much time things really take, and how you use the time available.
- At the daily standup, it's a great tool to review what you've done and if any estimates are off.
In the next post I will discuss the fourth objective: make the pomodoro more effective.