Improving software project estimates

Doing estimates for a project is very a challenging job. Many projects world over have failed because of incorrect software project estimates. I have tried to provide some simple tips that help in making more precise estimates for a software development project.

  • Try to make estimates for work that will take one day instead of estimating tasks that will take one month or quarter. It will ease the estimation task and prove to be more beneficial.
  • Involving developers for the estimating process is a good idea, as they would be the ones who would be finally working on the various tasks. It's a known fact that the best estimates are the ones that are "bottom up" and not the ones that are top down.

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  • People who have worked on similar tasks before also can prove very beneficial to the estimation process, so try to include them when possible.
  • If the project is a long-term project, then the range of cost associated for the project should be more than a short-term project.
  • There are various approaches for estimation, such as traditional, agile or a combination of both. You must choose the approach that is appropriate to your environment.
  • Many times it's a mistake to hire professional estimators because they are not really hands-on with the kind of work that needs to be done for the project. It also proves very expensive to hire these people for estimating and then working as per the estimates.
  • The estimates done for any project need to be updated as the actual tasks start falling in place so that you can have a better handle on future cost projections.

This was first published in April 2007

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