ELECTRONICS AND ELECTRICAL ENGINEERING
ISSN 1392 – 1215 2011. No. 5(111)
ELEKTRONIKA IR ELEKTROTECHNIKA
EDUCATION IN ELECTRONICS AND ELECTRICAL ENGINEERING
STUDIJOS ELEKTRONIKOJE IR ELETROTECHNIKOJE
A Case Study on Agile Estimating and Planning using Scrum
University of Ljubljana, Faculty of Computer and Information Science,
Trzaska 25, 1000 Ljubljana, phone: +386 1 4768 447, e-mail: email@example.com
Introducing agile methods into their development
process represents an important challenge for many
software companies. In the last few years several
successful implementations of agile methods have been
reported in the literature, e.g., [1–4]. According to Agile
Adoption Rate Survey  performed by Dr. Dobbs Journal
in 2008 agile teams report significant improvements in
productivity, quality, and stakeholder satisfaction, and
reasonable improvements in cost. A similar survey
conducted by VersionOne  additionally reports
enhanced ability to manage changing priorities and
significantly improved project visibility. For this reason,
agile methods are especially suitable for development of
information systems with changing and emergent user
requirements, e.g., . On the other hand, the same survey
has revealed that the lack of experience with agile methods
and the conflict between the company’s culture and core
agile values are the leading causes of failed agile projects.
In spite of the fact that Scrum [8, 9] is the most
widespread method in industry (according to  Scrum is
used by 58% of respondents, Scrum/Extreme Programming
hybrid by 17%, custom hybrid by 5%, Extreme Program-
ming by 4%, etc.), a systematic review of empirical studies
on agile software development  found only one study
investigating Scrum. Consequently, one of the clear
findings was that the coverage of the research area should
be increased placing more focus on management-oriented
approaches such as Scrum, which Dingsøyr et al. 
consider an example of an area where there is a large gap
and should be given priority.
In order to fill this gap empirical studies with students
as subjects can be helpful in further assessment of the
applicability of Scrum before it is actually deployed in
industrial software environments. A properly designed
study  can provide preliminary evidence about its
strengths and weaknesses, thus reducing risks
accompanying its adoption in practice.
In this paper we describe a case study that was
conducted at the University of Ljubljana with the aim of
studying the behavior of development teams using Scrum
for the first time, i.e., a situation typical for software
companies preparing to introduce Scrum into their
development process. Within the framework of the
capstone course in software engineering, which (as
recommended by ) students take in their last semester
13 student teams were required to develop an almost real
project strictly using Scrum. The data on project
management activities were collected in order to measure
the amount of work completed, compliance with the
release and iteration plans, ability of effort estimation, etc.,
thus contributing to evidence-based assessment of the
typical Scrum processes for possible use in software
Aims of the study and research questions
The aim of the study was twofold: (1) to analyze
development teams’ abilities of adopting Scrum concepts
(e.g., estimation of user stories, release and iteration
planning, concept of a user story being ‘done’), and (2) to
gather their opinions regarding the importance of particular
practices for a successful Scrum project.
Regarding the first aim our hypothesis was that the
estimates and plans will be less accurate at the beginning,
but will improve from Sprint to Sprint. There is substantial
evidence reported in the literature that the expert estimates
tend to be over-optimistic  and that the planning poker
estimation technique used by Scrum does not completely
eliminate the over-optimism . Therefore, we expected
our study to yield similar results. Considering our previous
experience  and results of a study on behavior of
Scrum teams  reporting the problem of unclear
completion criteria we also decided to pay special attention
to the notion of ‘done’. It was agreed that the Product
Owner could accept only those stories that were fully
tested and robust enough to survive an encounter with end
With regard to the second aim a survey was
conducted at the end of the study in order to find practices
that contribute most to the success of a Scrum project.
Practices were rated using a 5-point Likert scale, the grade
1 representing the lowest and the grade 5 the highest level
The remainder of the paper is organized as follows:
In the next two sections we describe the case study design
and its results. Then a description of students’ opinions
regarding the importance of particular Scrum practices
follows. Finally, the limitations of the study are discussed
that should be considered when applying the results in the
Case study design
The case study was conducted in the Summer term of
the Academic Year 2009/10 as a part of the capstone
software engineering course that lasted 15 weeks and was
taken by 52 students who were divided into 13 groups.
Each group played the role of a self-organizing and self-
managing Scrum Team responsible for the development of
a Web-based student records system covering enrollment,
examination applications, examination records, some
statistical surveys, and a special module for the
maintenance of all data required for the proper functioning
of the system (i.e., the maintenance of various code tables,
lists of required and optional courses, data about teachers
of each course, etc.).
The initial Product Backlog comprised 60 user stories
and was the same for all teams. It was prepared by the
teacher who had considerable experience in developing the
University of Ljubljana student records information system
[18, 19], thus being able to play the role of the Product
Owner. 55 stories described the required functionality for 4
different user roles (i.e., student records administrative
staff, students, teachers, and data administrator), whereas
five stories described constraints that had to be obeyed
(e.g., the system had to enable remote access to data
through the Internet, all outputs should also be printable,
etc.). Each story contained a short description and a set of
acceptance tests that had to be used to demonstrate that the
story had been correctly and fully coded.
The Product Owner divided the stories into 4 groups
on the basis of priority. There were 24 ‘must have’, 5
‘should have’, and 4 ‘could have’ stories required in the
first release, which should have been finished by the end of
the course. The remaining 27 ‘won’t have this time’ stories
were specified merely to illustrate the desired functionality
in the next release.
At the beginning of the course students were given 12
hours of formal lectures on agile principles, Scrum, and the
use of user stories for requirements specification and
iteration planning. The first three weeks also served as a
preparatory Sprint (Sprint 0) before the start of the project.
During Sprint 0 the development environment was
prepared and students were given the aforementioned
initial Product Backlog.
At the end of Sprint 0 each team was asked to
estimate the stories of the first release using planning poker
 and (considering its estimated velocity) prepare the
release plan. A story point was treated as an ideal day of
work and the estimates were constrained to specific
predefined values of 0.5, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, and 20 as
proposed by Cohn . Initial estimates and release plans
of all teams were recorded for further analysis.
The rest of the study consisted of three Sprints, each
of them lasting 4 weeks. Strictly following the Scrum
method each Sprint started with a Sprint planning meeting
at which student teams negotiated the contents of the next
iteration with the Product Owner, and developed the initial
version of the Sprint Backlog. During the Sprint the teams
had to meet regularly at the Daily Scrum meetings and
maintain their Sprint Backlogs decomposing the user
stories into constituent tasks and assigning responsibility
for each task. Each student individually estimated how
many hours it will take to accomplish each task he/she had
accepted. The instructors did not interfere in the
distribution of tasks among team members and the
estimation of effort, but merely paid attention that the
process ran smoothly and everybody obeyed Scrum rules.
At the end of each Sprint the Sprint review and Sprint
retrospective meetings took place. At the Sprint review
meeting the students presented results of their work to
instructors while at the Sprint retrospective meeting
students and instructors met to review the work in the
previous Sprint, giving suggestions for improvements in
the next one. After three Sprints the first release had to be
completed and delivered to the customer.
Since it was impossible to expect students to work on
the project every day, two Daily Scrum meetings per week
were prescribed, one on Monday and the other on Thurs-
day. At the Daily Scrum meeting each team member had to
record the number of hours spent and the amount of work
remaining for each task he/she was responsible for. When
the team finished a story the Product Owner was asked to
evaluate its implementation. The Product Owner strictly
enforced the concept of ‘done’, rejecting all stories that did
not conform to user requirements. If the shortcomings were
not removed by the end of the Sprint a new story was
defined in the Product Backlog requiring the completion of
missing features in one of the remaining Sprints.
At the end of each Sprint the actual velocity of each
team was computed considering only the stories that were
accepted by the Product Owner. The unstarted stories and
stories that were either rejected or newly defined by the
Product Owner were re-estimated in order to create a more
realistic plan for subsequent iterations.
Case study results
Results of the study are presented for each Sprint
separately in Tables 1 to 3. Data clearly confirm the
hypothesis that the plans are less accurate at the beginning,
but improve from iteration to iteration.
In the first Sprint the planned velocity estimates were
too optimistic and only one team out of 13 (i.e., team T04)
actually completed all functionality committed at the
Sprint planning meeting. The actual velocity of all other
teams was far behind the planned (mean value 11.00,
median 8.00). The teams completed on average only 42%
(median 35.71%) of story points planned and spent on
average much more than one ideal day of work per story
point (mean value 27.86, median 15.88 hrs/story point).
Analysis of results at the Sprint retrospective meeting
revealed two important reasons for such a great difference
between plans and actual achievement: (1) non-compliance
with the concept of ‘done’ and (2) insufficient communi-
cation with the Product Owner on the part of students.
Many stories that teams declared completed were rejected
either because of the Product Owner’s strict insistence on
providing fully tested, integrated and usable code or
because they did not fully match the user requirements.
Some teams complained that the non-compliance with user
requirements was due to user stories not being precise
enough in describing all the requirements details instead of
being aware that the details should be worked out in
conversations with the Product Owner. Therefore, all
teams were strongly encouraged to increase the commu-
nication with the Product Owner during the subsequent
Sprints and submit their user stories for review as soon as
they were completed, not waiting till the Sprint review
Table 1. Planned and actual achievement in Sprint 1
Team Velocity [Story Points] Plan fulfillment
Hours worked per
T01 35.50 1.50 4.23 240.00 160.00
T02 30.50 11.00 36.07 141.00 12.82
T03 52.00 43.00 82.69 146.50 3.41
T04 13.00 13.00 100.00 74.00 5.69
T05 22.00 12.00 54.55 132.70 11.06
T06 23.00 8.00 34.78 127.00 15.88
T07 36.50 7.50 20.55 242.00 32.27
T08 14.00 5.00 35.71 103.00 20.60
T09 32.00 14.00 43.75 138.00 9.86
T10 25.00 6.00 24.00 126.50 21.08
T11 20.00 13.00 65.00 114.00 8.77
T12 25.00 7.00 28.00 134.50 19.21
T13 12.00 2.00 16.67 83.00 41.50
Mean 26.19 11.00 42.00 138.63 27.86
Median 25.00 8.00 35.71 132.70 15.88
Table 2. Planned and actual achievement in Sprint 2
Team Velocity [Story Points] Plan fulfillment
Hours worked per
T01 43.00 23.00 53.49 140.00 6.09
T02 46.00 31.00 67.39 255.00 8.23
T03 46.50 46.50 100.00 109.00 2.34
T04 20.00 12.50 62.50 160.00 12.80
T05 36.00 36.00 100.00 180.00 5.00
T06 33.50 23.00 68.66 170.50 7.41
T07 35.50 14.50 40.85 148.00 10.21
T08 36.00 35.00 97.22 181.00 5.17
T09 25.00 20.50 82.00 116.50 5.68
T10 40.00 26.00 65.00 137.50 5.29
T11 33.50 25.50 76.12 199.00 7.80
T12 33.50 21.50 64.18 155.00 7.21
T13 18.50 18.50 100.00 108.00 5.84
Mean 34.38 25.65 75.18 158.42 6.85
Median 35.50 23.00 68.66 155.00 6.09
Table 3. Planned and actual achievement in Sprint 3
Team Velocity [Story Points] Plan fulfillment
Hours worked per
T01 35.00 35.00 100.00 181.00 5.17
T02 34.50 31.50 91.30 175.00 5.56
T03 7.50 7.50 100.00 29.00 3.87
T04 15.00 14.00 93.33 94.00 6.71
T05 25.50 25.50 100.00 60.50 2.37
T06 36.50 30.50 83.56 116.10 3.81
T07 25.00 15.00 60.00 125.00 8.33
T08 20.00 20.00 100.00 98.00 4.90
T09 24.00 23.00 95.83 111.00 4.83
T10 29.50 22.50 76.27 93.00 4.13
T11 36.00 36.00 100.00 169.00 4.69
T12 23.50 23.50 100.00 106.00 4.51
T13 29.00 27.00 93.10 144.25 5.34
Mean 26.23 23.92 91.80 115.53 4.94
Median 25.50 23.50 95.83 111.00 4.83
Strictly following the aforementioned recommenda-
tions the difference between planned and actual
achievement diminished significantly in the second Sprint.
The actual velocity more than doubled and (in spite of the
fact that the planned velocity was unreasonably high) the
teams completed on average 75.18% (median 68.66%) of
story points planned. They spent on average 6.85 (median
6.09) hours per story point which was almost in line with
the concept of a story point being equal to 6 hours of work.
The initial problems and learning curves were to a great
extent mastered, and those teams that established good co-
operation among team members, improved testing and
integration, and delivered regularly user stories for
evaluation, fulfilled their plans completely.
In the third Sprint the teams estimated their velocity
to be approximately the same as in the second Sprint,
which proved to be the right decision (mean value 26.23,
median 25.50). The actual achievement was very close to
the plan (mean value 23.92, median 23.50). The teams
completed on average 91.80% (median 95.83%) of story
points planned and 5 teams achieved 100%. Two teams
(T03 and T05) completed all the stories planned for the
first release even before the end of the Sprint. On the other
hand, it became evident that the teams that had not
established good internal communication remained far
behind the plan (e.g., team T07).
The results of the study show that (in spite of over-
optimistic and sometimes unrealistic initial estimates) the
ability of estimating and planning quickly improves. Most
teams were able to define almost accurate Sprint plans
after three Sprints. In the third Sprint the velocity stabili-
zed and the actual achievement almost completely matched
the plan. Empirical data also show a continued increase of
productivity. These findings can be considered when
introducing Scrum into industrial software development.
Students’ opinions regarding Scrum practices
Students’ opinions regarding the importance of
particular Scrum practices for a successful project are
gathered in Table 4. Each practice was rated using a 5-
point Likert scale, the grade 1 indicating the practice was
not important and the grade 5 indicating the practice was
very important. In order to test the extent to which the
students’ judgments are consistent, the intra-class
correlation coefficient (ICC) was computed using the
absolute agreement type of the two-way random effects
model. The average measure reliability ICC value was
0.935, indicating that the survey data were reliable enough
to be generalized. The one-sample t-test was used to
determine how much students’ rates deviate from the null
hypothesis that their opinions were neutral having the
arithmetic mean value of all questions equal to 3. Results
in Table 4 show that all hypotheses were rejected;
therefore, we can accept the alternative hypothesis that
students considered all practices important.
Students rated highest team-work and good
communication among team members. Student teams that
established good communication and team-work indeed
achieved far better results than teams that acted as a group
Good communication with Product Owner received
the second highest grade which was not a surprise since the
Product Owner played a central role in students’ projects.
Projects’ progress to a great extent depended on his timely
answers to students’ questions and prompt evaluation of
The concept of ‘done’ was also rated very highly
although we were afraid that the students would perceive
the Product Owner’s insistence on producing stable and
highly reliable code as an unnecessary pedantry. However,
it seems that through the project work they recognized that
only fully tested code that meets all user requirements can
be used in practice.
Table 4. Students’ opinions regarding the importance of Scrum
among team members
4.82 0.44 < 0.001
2 Good communication
with Product Owner 4.72 0.45 < 0.001
3 Concept ‘done’ 4.52 0.68 < 0.001
Clarity of require-
ments specified in the
4.28 0.67 < 0.001
5 Sprint Review
Meetings 4.20 0.76 < 0.001
6 Good ScrumMaster 3.94 0.98 < 0.001
maintenance of Sprint
3.92 0.75 < 0.001
8 Sprint Retrospective
Meetings 3.74 0.92 < 0.001
9 Daily Scrum Meetings 3.72 1.03 < 0.001
10 Release planning 3.72 0.86 < 0.001
11 Accurate user story
estimation 3.56 0.95 < 0.001
12 Accurate velocity
estimation 3.54 0.89 < 0.001
Clarity of requirements specified in the Product
Backlog was ranked fourth with an average grade of 4.28
indicating that students consider a well prepared and
maintained Product Backlog an important factor affecting
the success of the project. During the project students
occasionally complained that the user stories should
contain a more extensive description. However, we were
trying to convince them that the essence of the agile
approach is not in writing detailed requirements
specifications, but in acquiring missing details through
communication with the Product Owner and end users.
The high importance of Sprint review meetings can
be deduced from the high grades accorded to
communication with the Product Owner and the concept of
‘done’. All these practices together enable customers to
experience on-time delivery of increments and obtain
frequent feedback on how the product really works.
The role of ScrumMaster was also considered
important, but not as much as the role of Product Owner.
We think this was because the teacher spent much more
time playing the role of Product Owner than being the
ScrumMaster. As a ScrumMaster he acted merely as a
facilitator giving student teams the freedom to self-manage
and self-organize as proposed by Scrum. Although he took
care that everybody followed Scrum and obeyed its rules
this role was less exposed than the role of Product Owner,
thus giving an impression of less importance.
The importance of other Scrum meetings was rated
between 3.72 and 3.92 which means that these meeting are
also considered important, but less than other Scrum
practices. We can attribute a slightly lower grade of these
meetings to the fact that students often perceive meetings
as an unproductive waste of time.
Planning and estimation practices were rated least
important (although still statistically significantly above
average), which was somewhat of a surprise since the
study paid a lot of attention to story estimation and release
and Sprint planning. Although the purpose of agile
planning is not to produce exact plans we think that
students underestimated the importance of this area. There
may be several reasons for such opinions. A previous study
on students’ perceptions of agile methods  has shown
that students feel least comfortable with planning activities
and have low trust in their estimates. Many students also
consider estimating and planning unproductive
administrative work not being fully aware of the
importance of good estimates and plans.
Limitations of the study
From the standpoint of using the results in industry
the main limitation of the study is that it was conducted
with students in an academic environment. However, in
order to increase the degree of validity every effort was
made to simulate an industrial environment as closely as
possible. User stories were defined on the basis of a real
student records information system used at the University
of Ljubljana and the study design strictly followed the
checklist for integrating student empirical studies with
research and teaching goals . The Product Owner
strictly enforced the concept of ‘done’ requiring students to
produce fully tested and integrated code resistant to user
errors. The study relied on senior students enrolled in their
last semester, thus blurring the line between these students
and novice professionals. A previous study  has shown
that these students perform similarly to industry personnel.
Another possible threat to validity is that students
(due to other courses) could not work a normal workday,
but met for a Daily Scrum twice a week. Considering the
even distribution of the total course workload over 15
weeks each student was required to perform 6-8 hours (i.e.,
approximately one day) of work between two consecutive
Daily Scrum meetings, thus simulating the real workload
of a normal workday. The rest of the time the students
could use for other academic duties. Regular execution of
the Daily Scrum meetings worked fine encouraging
students to work consistently rather than procrastinate.
However, the 3-4 days interval between the meetings
provided some room for reallocation of workload allowing
students to work more than 8 hours between the two
consecutive meetings, which could lead to an uneven
distribution of effort over Sprints and skewed the statistics
concerning velocity in extreme case. We noticed such an
abuse on the part of the team T03, which reallocated a
substantial amount of work from Sprint 3 to Sprint 2 in
order to complete the project before the end of the course,
but this did not affect significantly the study results.
On the other hand, the results of the study in a great
deal depended on the proper role of the Product Owner. A
knowledgeable and responsive Product Owner contributed
a lot to smooth running of students’ projects and
consequently to better statistics regarding velocity and
ability of planning. A non-responsive and/or not
knowledgeable enough Product Owner could cause delays
and unproductive working periods.
Empirical studies with students as subjects can help
industry in providing evidence-driven assessment of new
processes, methods, and tools before their introduction in
software engineering practice. While most software
companies cannot afford extensive experiments, it is not a
problem to conduct a study with several teams working on
an almost real project within the framework of a software
engineering capstone course. In this paper we described an
example of such a study that concentrated on (1) the
assessment of abilities of estimating and planning when
using Scrum for the first time, and (2) gathering students’
opinions regarding the importance of particular Scrum
Results of the study have shown that the beginners
are able to almost completely grasp Scrum’s benefits after
a couple of Sprints. Their ability of estimating and
planning improved from Sprint to Sprint and after three
Sprints almost all teams were able to define accurate
iteration plans. The velocity also constantly grew, thus
indicating the improvement in productivity.
The study has also revealed the importance of the role
of Product Owner. Since the user stories serve merely as a
remainder for conversation all user requirements details
should be clarified in communication with the Product
Owner. In order to assure smooth running of a Scrum
project it is important that the Product Owner provides
timely answers to questions regarding details of user
stories, and makes quick evaluations of work completed
strictly enforcing the concept of a user story being ‘done’.
Students were overwhelmingly positive about the
course because it enabled them to learn agile methods
using project oriented approach, which also proved to be
successful in other areas of engineering, e.g., [24, 25].
The author is grateful to teaching assistants Luka
Fürst and Tomaz Hovelja for their help in conducting the
course and analyzing data concerning student teams’
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We describe a case study that was conducted at the University of Ljubljana with the aim of studying the behavior of development
teams using Scrum for the first time, i.e., a situation typical for software companies trying to introduce Scrum into their development
process. 13 student teams were required to develop an almost real project strictly using Scrum. The data on project management
activities were collected in order to measure the amount of work completed, compliance with the release and iteration plans, and ability
of effort estimation, thus contributing to evidence-based assessment of the typical Scrum processes. It was found that the initial plans
and effort estimates were over-optimistic, but the abilities of estimating and planning improved from Sprint to Sprint. Most teams were
able to define almost accurate Sprint plans after three Sprints. In the third Sprint the velocity stabilized and the actual achievement
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V. Mahnic. „Agile“ metodų taikymas projektų valdymui įvertinti ir planuoti // Elektronika ir elektrotechnika. – Kaunas:
Technologija, 2011. – Nr. 5(111). – P. 123–128.
Aprašoma „Scrum“ projektų valdymo sistema. Ši sistema naudojama Liublianos universitete programinės įrangos kūrimo procesui
organizuoti. Beveik realiems projektams įgyvendinti buvo sudaryta trylika studentų komandų. Bandant nustatyti atitiktį „Scrum“
procesams organizuoti buvo renkami įvairūs duomenys (darbo pabaigimo lygis, atitikimas planams ir kt.). Nustatyta, kad, bandant
ketvirtą kartą, pagal „Scrum“ metodologiją procesą galima organizuoti be klaidų. Bibl. 25, lent. 4 (anglų kalba; santraukos anglų ir