How to estimate when an epic will be done

Calendar with red pins and the 30th circled in red

This article goes over how to estimate when an epic will be done using the methods:

  • T-Shirt
  • Ticket Count
  • Story Points
  • Monte Carlo

T-Shirt

2 t-shirts folded on the ground next to sneakers, plant, magazine and camera

T-shirt size provides a rough estimate of how long it would take a delivery team to finish an epic.

  • XS = 0–1 weeks
  • S = 2–4 weeks
  • M = 5–8 weeks
  • L = 9–12 weeks
  • XL = +13 weeks

Since the t-shirt size is a high-level estimate, it’s usually given before a technical design or story breakdown (ticket creation) is done.

Ticket Count

Hand holding a bunch of arcade coupon tickets

If you’re doing Scrum/Kanban, you can check your Agile report to see how long it takes a developer to complete a ticket.

Example

1 developer closes 1 ticket every 1 week and epic has 10 tickets:

  • 10 tickets / 1 developer = 10 weeks
  • 10 tickets / 2 developers = 5 weeks
  • 10 tickets / 3 developers = 3.3 weeks

Story Points

Ski ball game with rings with points on them

If you’re doing Scrum/Kanban, you can check your Agile report to see how many story points a developer completes in a week.

Example

1 developer does 3 points every 1 week and epic has 30 points (10 tickets × 3 points):

  • 30 points / (1 developer × 3 points) = 10 weeks
  • 30 tickets / (2 developers × 3 points) = 5 weeks
  • 30 tickets / (3 developers × 3 points) = 3.3 weeks

Monte Carlo

ActionableAgile chart with Monte Carlo simulation on when work will be done

If you have existing data, you can run a Monte Carlo simulation.

If you’re using Jira, you can use the ActionableAgile plugin charts:

Buffer

Once your epic has a target date, you should always add a buffer because it’s rare for projects to complete on time since there are always interrupts, changes, and bugs.

  • Optimistic = 1.25x
  • Conservative = 1.5x
  • Pessimistic = 2x

Example

Given an epic is estimated to take 10 weeks to complete:

  • Optimistic = 10 weeks × 1.25 = 12.5 weeks
  • Conservative = 10 weeks × 1.5 = 15 weeks
  • Pessimistic = 10 weeks × 2 = 20 weeks

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