The Lonely Estimators

Today the Product Owner of one of our teams popped by our desks to seek some advice on estimations. He seemed quite puzzled:

“For user story X, the team correctly identified that the work was at the database level. But when doing the actual estimation, they stepped back and left the expert database developer do the estimate. When the DB developer spoke out, I got some signals from the rest of the team that the estimation might have been inflated – still none of them said anything.”


I see 2 problems here:

1. Why isn’t the entire team estimating the user story *together*, even though it only involves DB work?
2. Why is the DB developer inflating the estimation?

In my experience, developers – as basic example – are not willing to estimate anything that isn’t related to their code, is a common pattern in teams starting Scrum. “How can I provide an accurate estimate in a field I am no expert in?” How have I solved it? Usually I try to insist on the fact that there are no *right* estimates and that the goal of all this is to generate a discussion that will help everyone to have a better idea of what the deliverables of a user story are. Estimates are not written in stone!

Inflating estimates is a little trickier… In this case, I know that the DB developer is actually part of another team which means he may already be overloaded with work from this other team. Inflating to avoid the burnout? Why not… How would I solve this? First thing that comes to my mind is to try to hire, which may not be solving the root cause. If that is not possible, I would suggest the team to inform themselves on the subject matter to become less dependent. Writing SQL queries is surely no rocket science when you can do .NET!

Questions to other Scrum or Agile practitioners: Did you encounter similar scenarios and how did you handle them? If not, how would you handle them if you did? Share your experience with us!

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