Business Bingo is a rapid way to generate consensus on actionable numbers for feature cost, business value, risk, Return On Investment (ROI) and Cost of Delay (COD). Like all the XPM practices (Link setzen), this is a lightweight and easy to understand numbers game. It starts with empirical probes that represent a metric basis for all the numbers it generates. A comparison game not unlike the traditional Agile “Planning Poker” generates the numbers, and the whole Product Squad collaborates in figuring out why these numbers are as they are. Checks and balances sustain the alignment of frames of reference necessary for the Product Squad to rapidly agree on a release plan.
Feature squads use a simple collaborative estimation method called Planning Poker or Scrum Poker to determine the relative effort needed to deliver different stories. These story point estimates can be converted into dollars and time by combination with delivery throughput measurements called velocity. But they’re not a suitable input to release planning because:
- They don’t and were never intended to estimate a feature budget. To get at a budget estimate you’d have to multiply them by the story velocity, which inevitably and intentionally varies from team to team and, within a single team, from time to time.
- You can’t produce story point estimates without breaking down features into stories. If you wait until you’ve done that for all your features, you’ve stepped out of Agile-land back into Waterfall-land to have an analysis phase. But if you don’t commit to some kind of feature-level release plan you’ll wind up with the business rebelling because of a lack of predictability, which will also take you back to Waterfall-land.
- There are plenty of costs associated with delivering a feature that isn’t captured by story estimates, especially to do with feature integration testing, system integration testing, marketing and Opex. These must be taken into account when budgeting features for a release plan.
Business Bingo is a simple way to quickly determine the budget (time * resource) and relative ROI (Royal Cod) of a feature set without waiting for its features to be broken down into estimable stories. It bases estimates and priorities on the historical costs of a set of features delivered in previous releases and takes costs of analysis and operation into account too. It also provides a simple method to “monetize” story points in terms of feature budgets in feature points.
Best of all, Business Bingo is easy, fun to play, and quickly aligns business and technical stakeholders:
- Write Fibonacci numbers from 1 to 89 on cards and lay them out in a row across a large table. There’s nothing magical about Fibonacci numbers – we use them because they consistently lead people to argue in terms of trade-offs – is feature A really as big as feature B + feature C, and so on.
- Select three previously delivered and deployed features with well documented costs, one small, one medium and one large. Call these probes. Describe each probe in story-normal form commensurable with the roadmap features you want to estimate and represent their complete delivery costs – including documentation, hotfix, opex, the whole nine yards – in terms of feature points. Place the three probes under the Fibonacci numbers that match their respective magnitudes in feature points.
- Pick a feature from your acceptance matrix. Compare it with the probes, starting with the middle one, to evaluate its relative size in Fibonacci multiples of feature points.
- As you add features, sort them into the appropriate Fibonacci column. Continue to compare features this way until there are none left to compare. If the estimators cannot agree on the Fibonacci number for a feature, split it into pieces they can estimate separately.
- Take features that wind up in the last 3 columns and break them into pieces you can estimate separately. This granularity limit greatly improves the overall quality of the estimates.
- To estimate relative business value, you simply pick a different set of 3 probes – one for an existing deployed feature that the PO says has low business value, and then one that’s critically important to business function, and then one roughly in between. Place them at 3, 13 and 55, respectively, and the rest of the Bingo game runs as above.
- All product squad members collaborate in a 3rd pass to calculate risks.
- Record all three numbers on each feature card as input to Royal Cod prioritization.
There’s no dollar quantification of the return here, but we’ve found business stakeholders quickly converge on which features are worth more than others. And the conversations they have in getting to agreement are extremely illuminating – the technical team members need to listen carefully and ask questions to make certain they share the business context.