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Fundamentals of Forecasting

Predicting Accurate Completion Dates Using NoEstimates

Matthew Philip

“When will it be done?” It’s a question we all have to answer. How do we forecast completion dates with less effort and more accuracy? If you’re keen to know how you can spend less time estimating and more time delivering working software—all while providing your customers with some understanding of predictability — this training session will help you understand what and to what degree different factors influence delivery time. NoEstimates is a lightweight approach to planning and delivering work that applies agile thinking to help teams improve deadline performance, focus on value and reduce budget risk. Join this session to learn how to move from upfront intuition-based estimates to create a data-based probabilistic forecast that provides a more reliable way to talk about when stuff will be done—and expend less effort to do so. Learn to forecast when things will be done -- with less effort and more accuracy.

What you'll learn-and how you can apply it

By the end of this live, hands-on, online course, you’ll understand:

  • The basics of NoEstimates and why the concept can help improve delivery
  • How to reduce variation that affects — and creates risk in — delivery
  • The difference between deterministic and probabilistic forecasts

And you’ll be able to:

  • Create a probabilistic forecast that provides a less risky way to plan
  • Determine through experimentation what — and how much — different factors influence delivery time
  • Start simply, by collecting data

This training course is for you because...

  • You are a software developer with traditional estimating experience and you need to be able to answer the “when will it be done?” question effectively while spending a bigger percentage of your time doing what you love, which is developing.
  • You are a software-team manager or leader with traditional estimating experience and you need to inform stakeholders when projects will be completed with more accuracy and better predictability.


  • Familiarity with spreadsheets, like Excel and Google Sheets

Recommended Preparation:

  • Before class, download the Delivery-Time Data spreadsheet and do the following optional pre-class tasks:
  • Using the Delivery-Time Data spreadsheet, collect at least 10 data points from actual delivered work items, entering at minimum the start date and end date for each.
  • Write down your learning goals: What are one or two things you want to learn from this course?
  • Review the “Forecasting with Less Effort and More Accuracy” presentation to learn more about NoEstimates

About your instructor

  • Matthew Philip is a human-centered change agent, delivery leader, and coach at Accenture | SolutionsIQ. Matthew helps organizations build the right teams to build the right things the right way via Agile methods and engaging work environments. He has 19 years’ global experience in digital consulting, with the most recent 15 in Agile contexts, including roles at ThoughtWorks, where he led the global workshops team, and Asynchrony, where he served as director of Agile coaching. He’s the creator of the open source NoEstimates board game, which he’s facilitated at conferences and with clients around the world.


The timeframes are only estimates and may vary according to how the class is progressing

Introduction (10 minutes)

  • Warmup Activity: Probabilistically estimating ordinary things
  • Discussion: Review Learning goals

Answering the Question “When will it be done?” (25 minutes)

  • What’s the Problem We’re Trying to Solve with Estimates?
  • What’s the Problem with the Solution?
  • The Myth of Correlation
  • Hofstadter’s Law
  • Parkinson’s Law
  • Complexity and Cynefin
  • Activity: Identify your project using Cynefin
  • Presentation: NoEstimates and the NoEstimates Manifesto
  • Q&A

Sources of Variation (10 minutes)

  • Activity: How many sources of variation can you name?
  • Discussion: Reducing sources of variation (remedies and policies)

Data Over Intuition (15 minutes)

  • Discussion: Human cognitive biases
  • Activity: Scatterplot dice rolls
  • Q&A
  • 5 min break

Deterministic vs. Probabilistic Thinking (25 minutes)

  • Presentation: Straight-line forecasts and the Flaw of Averages
  • Demonstration: The Probabilistic Forecast
  • Activity: Create your own probabilistic forecast with your data
  • Q&A

Next Steps (10 minutes)

  • The Business and Better Questions to Ask
  • How to Start
  • Q&A

Wrap Up (25 minutes)

  • Activity: Review learning goals
  • Activity: Takeaways and insights
  • Q&A