software development effort estimation

Effort Estimation in Software Development Projects

Effort estimation is one of the initial steps in software development projects. Despite its complexity, when performed right, effort estimation creates a basis for all subsequent stages related to project planning and management.

What exactly is effort estimation? Why do it at all?

There are three main factors when planning and estimating a software development project:

  1. The deliverables (or the scope)
  2. The resources (the budget and the team’s effort)
  3. The timeline

We’ve already talked about software development scope estimation in another post.

These three factors are the constraints of the iron triangle model in project planning. These constraints are “iron” because altering one of them impacts the other two.

Read more about the iron triangle model on Atlassian.

Software development effort estimation deals with predicting the effort (in terms of person-hour or money) required to develop quality software. 

Effort estimation (and other estimates) create some certainty and commitment and are used for planning and making decisions for the project (planning budget, investment, and pricing). 

How do you estimate effort in software development using agile methodology?

Effort estimation happens during the initial stages of software projects. Inaccurate estimations cause complications during the implementation of the project and further development processes, but the estimates become more precise as the project proceeds.

In software development projects, traditional approaches use a bottom-up technique. They break down the scope and define each feature and task and thoroughly estimate their time, cost, and effort, then, add these calculations up and determine the sum of all project estimates.

But agile methodology uses a top-down technique. Agile teams roughly calculate the project’s time and cost, considers them as fixed metrics, and then estimate the scope. Then, the team breaks the project into story points and determines the amount of effort each story point needs through agile estimation techniques and Fibonacci sequence numbers (like planning poker, T-shirt sizes, and dot voting). 

Story points credit team members (not individuals) because they complete the project based on its difficulty (not the time spent). 

How do you announce the budget and time of the software project based on effort estimations?

Nevertheless, all these project estimates don’t make much sense to investors and users; they want to know the exact costs of the project or its release date. So effort estimates are converted into hours/days/weeks/months, and the expenses are estimated accordingly.
When developers want to announce the time the project finishes, they usually approximately estimate the overall effort and convert it into time; then, they double that time and state it to their clients and costumers (to play things safe!).

Some tips to help keep effort estimation agile in your software development project
  • Involve everyone

Agile is all about teamwork. 

All team members need to participate in the estimation procedures so the team can obtain proper estimates and plan the project. 

Every opinion matters, so be sure to involve everyone; this will surely improve your results.

  • Acknowledge a team’s velocity 

As we have already discussed, a team’s experience and seniority affect all project estimates. 

Acknowledge your teams’ capability and velocity and difference; build up your expectations and estimations accordingly.

  • Specify a limit

Agile teams must specify boundaries for the number of story points and the hours they work on them. For example, if the maximum story point is worth 21 points, it’s preferable to keep the hours of work to a minimum of 16 hours. No task should take more time and effort than that; if it does, the team has to break it down.

How does WinATalent estimate your project?

We use agile techniques when estimating your project at WinATalent.

We discuss your project amongst our team and take your budget and timeline into consideration. 

After determining your software’s minimum requirements and backlog tasks, we write a report that consists of various estimates based on different circumstances (such as your in-house or outsourced team’s experience).

You can use this data to make the best decision about your software product and know what to expect from its final version.

Find out more about our estimation services at WinATalent.

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