Breaking a project into actionable tasks (referred to as "cards") and estimating our effort per card is a practice we do as early and as accurately as we can. We have discussions with our clients before beginning each new project, and again with every major feature. A mutual understanding of budget, timeframe, and potential obstacles is vital to a healthy working relationship and a successful project.
We use Pivotal Tracker to estimate and track features. Pivotal Tracker is an important tool in our workflow that allows us to estimate, manage, and log our work. Clients can see exactly what we're working on, understand how we arrived at a certain estimate, and pinpoint exactly when and where obstacles arise. This is one way we keep our conversations clear.
Knowing milestones and deadlines in advance is an expectation clients have of us. They are deeply invested in the project and have their own schedules. Knowing how long it takes us to build certain features helps them prioritize and set their own milestones. From concept to product launch, estimation builds confidence and trust that brings out the best work in everyone.
While our methods and tools may be relatively new, creating honest expectations was always good policy in working relationships. We don't think it's revolutionary. We just think it's good business.