Agile Software DevelopmentAgile Thinking

Project Estimates: How Good or Bad Are We?

Developers do not like project estimates because they fear the clients might use those to discover issues. Are we generally that bad at projecting? We have breakfast, catch the bus, and arrive at work on time. Simula Research Laboratory Magne Jørgensen claims that we are actually good at estimating. So then, why is there such a doubt? In this article at Mountain Goat Software, Michael Cohn debates whether we are good or bad at project estimates.

Making Project Estimates

We are good at estimating things if we have done similar things like that before. We know how much it would take to mow the lawn or exercise. It is different from when the boss asks to estimate a new product you have never worked on. Nonetheless, you give a timeline of 500 hours, and the boss goes away happy. Your team ultimately completes the project at 1,000 hours, double the time of your project estimates. The boss approached the other team too, and they gave a reasonable estimate of 1,500 hours. They did not get the project because the time estimate was not ideal for the boss. In general, project estimates with reduced timelines and budgets are more favorable. So, we end up with overconfident teams with tight deadlines and overshooting timelines.

Perfect the Act

You get better at making project estimates as you gather experience. A software development work report indicated that developers perfect the act 64 percent times on the first ten items they estimated. Once they got feedback, they were 70 percent correct for the second set of tasks and 80 percent for the third list.

To reach near-perfect estimates, make the development team realize that overestimation is never a good thing. Encourage everyone to get involved in the person instead of making one person responsible for the project estimates. Do not give the responsibility to people that do not want to hear their team members’ concerns and feedback.

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