Talk: The State of NoEstimates

"The only sure thing about forecasts is that they are WRONG" - James P. Womack and Daniel T. Jones. Estimates have been the bane of software development managers and programmers for decades. Customers want to know: When will it be done? How much will it cost? Managers need to provide a budget, and a timeline. Programmers are expected to predict the future, and are told "We won't hold you to the estimate", and yet they often are. I suggest that estimates themselves are not the problem, but rather it's our dependence on following an estimate-driven approach.

Our decision making process requires that we use estimates, and yet the results are mediocre at best, and even worse they misinform the decisions they are meant to support. Do we really need estimates? Is simply "getting better" at estimates worthwhile? Can we live without them? Will things be better without them? We must be open to discussing the possible problems, and to search for alternatives. I don't necessarily have answers for you, but I've worked with "no estimates" for over 8 years and I'm still alive. I want to explore the idea of estimates, why they are pervasive in the programming world, how they might be harmful, and see if we can grow the dialogue about finding a better way to make decisions.