We are proud to be attending and speaking at the Lean Kanban North America
conference later this month in Chicago. As part of that conference we are running a full day tutorial on Forecasting.
Here are our goals for the one day tutorial -
- How to forecast likely delivery dates and costs
- How to calculate Cost of Delay and why it matters
- How to quantify the benefits of decreasing cycle time in cash-flow and throughput
- How to calculate the cost and date impact of defects and blocking events
- How to analyze systems for staff imbalance
- How to analyze and use historical data when available
- What constitutes "enough" historical data and what to do when you have less (or none)
We surveyed the participants and the order listed above is the order the attendees picked. There is still time to register, and we have prepared our tutorial material to maximize one day of learning, with plenty of exercises to take home and continue learning.
Here is the description -
"Humans stink at planning through uncertainty, but that doesn't stop executives, their managers, and financial departments from expecting and acting on estimates fraught with more uncertainty than confidence. Despite this, most project teams go through the ceremonial and demoralizing "estimation" process knowing their estimates are worthless at best, and dangerous at worst. In fact, estimates are so untrusted by everyone that executives, managers, and financial hawks routinely dismiss them, make arbitrary changes and hold the estimates (and those who create them) with utmost disdain.
What can be done about this?
How about forecasting instead of estimating?
What's the difference? Estimating is typically made up of little more than a wet-finger held to the air. (A bit comical, but not far off the mark.) Some wet-fingers are well-calibrated, but the calibration doesn't change some of the fundamental flaws of estimation. Foremost of these flaws are the flaws pertaining to the rationale behind the estimates and the ratio of knowns to unknowns to unknowable that common estimation techniques ineffectively handle.
On the other hand, forecasting is based on actual system capabilities. As importantly, forecasting can be tooled to speak to executives in the terms they already use throughout the business -- except when it comes to software or IT services. Terms that speak in the language of value rather than the language of cost.
In this tutorial, attendees will learn surprisingly uncomplicated approaches to understanding system capabilities and use this understanding to express the need for resources, time, and process improvements that are quantitatively solid and statistically valid. In other words, attendees will learn how to make a case for staffing, resources, time, and even contractual commitments using basic tools, a little data and a helping of visuals in the forecasting language of executives rather than the estimation language of charity cases."
David Anderson has been presenting his thoughts on using the number of card pulls (Pull Transactions) as a metric for measuring the health and liquidity of a Kanban process. He starts the conversation here - http://agilemanagement.net/index.php/Blog/thoughts_on_the_value_of_liquidity_as_metric/
Our software has always charted the number of empty positions and queued positions over time which is a close proxy to this measurement and found the sum of Empty and Queued each time period a reliable indicator for forecasting where the stress points are in the Kanban board process. We decided that this liquidity chart might add an easier dimension for people to understand the impact of changes when they are experimenting with our simulation software. So we added the chart.
We are still refining the way it looks and going to add trend lines to make it easier to discern the running average, and we are also building a set of examples that show how it adds value. Remember -this is the ONLY chart where higher is BETTER. All of our other measure are lower is better - causing us some stress internally!
This is in the latest version (v1.3.1) you can download now.
We have just made our latest simulation tool available on our download page.
This edition is a major upgrade from version 1.0, some of the new features and enhancements are -
- Performance is improved by over 10 times for forecasting
- Scrum and Kanban models co-exist in the one application (our intention going forward)
- 35+ example files built-in to kickstart learning
- New data reverse engineering tools (fitting data from samples)
Integration offers dramatically improved forecasting and quantitative analysis for Kanban teams.
See the full press release here -
Nashville, TN May 16, 2012
LeanKit, recognized as the leader in electronic Lean/Kanban software, and Focused Objective, makers of the most powerful risk management solution for Lean-Agile management, today announce a partnership to provide customers with an integrated product offering. The combined solution will bring industry leading quantitative analysis to LeanKit’s and Focused Objective’s customer base in an easy to use and immediately available way. This analysis includes forecasting project delivery dates, pinpointing what factors such as staffing, quality, scope change, etc. are having the greatest impact on delivery dates, and the ability to find what staff skill additions will have the most impact.
“The ability to answer tough questions relating to date, cost, staff and risk forecasts, both before and during a software development project is a capability we want all Lean and Agile teams to have at their fingertips", according to Troy Magennis, founder and CTO of Focused Objective. "By allowing customers to import and work from the leading Kanban tool vendor, LeanKit, we remove any barrier to entry and offer users an accelerated timeline to seeing incredible results from our simulation and modeling technology.”
“The accuracy and quality of the data available from a Kanban system is far superior to what has been available to management in the past. Traditional project management systems collect data based on estimates and averages, and are inherently flawed, explained Chris Hefley, founder and CEO of LeanKit. "This integration will take the high-quality data available from LeanKit and combine it with the revolutionary simulation and forecasting technology provided by Focused Objective, to provide managers and planners with the kind of accurate and reliable analysis that they need to make good decisions.”
The first visible outcome of this partnership is the immediate availability of an import tool that brings data from LeanKit into KanbanSim, Focused Objective’s desktop simulation tool for Lean teams. Magennis explains, "It is important that our customers aren’t forced to enter backlog data or plan multiple deliverables in more than one place. LeanKit does a fantastic job of making it easy to plan and organize a product story backlog, and our import wizard takes that data and incorporates it into our modeling language.”
LeanKit is recognized by Lean community leaders and practitioners alike as the most flexible and powerful tool available for implementing the Kanban method. The company is also making a name for itself in the Lean community beyond software with ventures into construction, manufacturing, education, and more. Since its founding in 2009, LeanKit has grown rapidly to serve more than 60,000 users around the world at companies such as Spotify, Glaxo Smith Kline, NBC Universal, BBVA, Geico, Nokia, and the government of Ontario, Canada. Enterprise Kanban @ LeanKitKanban.com.
About Focused Objective
Focused Objective makes tools that effectively model Kanban and Scrum projects to get accurate forecasts of cost, delivery dates and staff requirements. Using a variety of proven quantitative techniques, Focused Objective’s modeling and simulation technology allows rapid what-if analysis to find options that minimize cost and delivery time, whilst maximizing revenue. Founded in 2011, Focused Objective offers a variety of products, notably - a rich modeling language (SimML), a desktop simulation product (KanbanSim and ScrumSim), and a simulation engine that can be incorporated into other products.
Managing software project risk is an area we are seeing great need in our industry. At the recent Lean Software and Systems conference, and at Agile 2012 later this year, we demonstrate that software delivery estimates aren't a single date, but rather a multi-modal probability distribution curve. We put together this 1-minute introduction to the topic. See it on our Video
page or YouTube -
Our friends at LeanKitKanban
offered us a chance to post a guest article for their blog [thank you].
Agilists must accept the need for revenue and budget forecasts to be taken seriously
It is easy to join the chorus of opinion that software project estimation is waste and must be eliminated. Whilst I can understand the objections to spending valuable time preparing and rationalizing a set of estimates for ill-defined features or projects, this posting explains the counter-points – why estimation is necessary, and why it is in your best interest to participate.
Thank you LeanKit for being brave enough to publish an un-popular, but important topic!
The next beta version of the simulation engine has been uploaded to the Downloads page
This version contains many new features and bug fixes that were reported by our early adopters. A full description of the new features can be found in the release notes
, but to summarize:
- Multiple project phase support - you can specify any number of project phases and apply fixed multiplier adjustments to estimates and occurrence estimates (e.g. make estimates during the ramp-up phase take a little bit longer), and have events target specific phases (e.g. have more defects reported later in the project).
- New command line application - allows you to automate and integrate the simulation engine with other tools and combine the results with other analysis tools.
- Customizable HTML Report Templates - you can now edit and customize all of the HTML reports using a templating language. There was a lot of feedback that you wanted these reports to be completely customizable, so we have opened up complete control.
- Scrum HTML Reports now included - these missed the previous beta, all reports are now available for all simulation commands for both Agile/Scrum and Lean/Kanban.
- Scrum Simulation examples - these missed the previous beta. There are now Scrum examples for every simulation command installed into the Examples folder.
- Custom and Built-in Distributions - there are now over 20 built-in random number distributions, and two powerful custom distribution types that allow complete control over how random numbers are generated. This is an advanced topic that will be documented and explained in future posts.
- ALPHA: Batch transfer rates for starting and completing work: To model work being started as a batch every so often, and work only being moved forward in a batch every so often, each Kanban column can specify a replenishInterval and a completeInterval. Cards will only be started after the number of simulation steps specified in the replenishInterval for a column, and will only be allowed to move to the next column or backlog after the number of simulation steps specified in the completeInterval for each column has passed. The counter resets after each trigger.
As a preview of our new book: Forecasting and Simulating Software Development Projects: Effective Modeling of Kanban & Scrum Projects using Monte-carlo Simulation, here is a sample chapter. This chapter is a walkthrough of a modeling and simulation scenario of a project that proposes to build a new website.
This chapter shows how a model can help get a project approved, and them monitor progress on that project. It demonstrates how to initially create a quick model, and understand what staff and costs will be needed for various delivery options.
We have just published our first book on the techniques we use and encourage other professionals to use in modeling and simulating Kanban and Scrum software projects. For more information see the Books and Publications page
Available on Amazon soon, at the moment you can buy it from our publishing partner, and for a limited time, get a 25% discount.
Special offer: 25% off use code: AF7T4YMY ($18.71 after discount)