How Accurate are Software Estimates?
Estimating for anything is difficult. But, it’s necessary. Software companies use estimates to project out release schedules, make commitments to their customers, decide whether a proposed feature is worth implementing, track teams’ progress, and prioritize the work effectively. Clients want to know when a feature or deliverable will be ready for use. After all, software development is not a small investment. Without estimates, how would the project manager make an assessment? Estimation is the great conundrum. It’s essential and necessary for companies to ask their people to do the impossible: predict the future.
There are several ways a software project can be estimated. Let’s go over a few of them.
“Estimating for anything is difficult, but it’s necessary”
Full Scope Guess
It seems silly to think that a project could be estimated by someone just taking a look at the components and saying, “umm, three months?”, but it’s not uncommon. The problem with this method of estimation is that the people working on the project vastly underestimate the complexity of the work, causing the delivery date and price to rise throughout the project. However, it’s fast, and this sets the project up for the waterfall methodology of development, which some product owners prefer.
The other, more accurate way of estimating software projects is the agile method. For Agile, the team will take the entire scope of the project and divide it into sprints, or short periods of time (usually 2 weeks). Then, each sprint is measured by how much time and money it will cost to finish. Once each sprint is added up, the estimate is created. Although this is the preferred method of estimation, it is still venerable to adjustments.
Being surefooted and confident in your project will reduce likelihood of an estimate hike.
Why Are Software Estimates Sometimes Not Accurate?
- Developers underestimate the complexity of the project
- Key team members leave mid-project, causing a slowdown in development
- Clients add features to the scope, creating additional work for the development team
- Product owners are not readily available to answer questions about the project, stalling progress
No matter which way you slice it, an estimate is just that. If you’re working with an honest software firm, they’ll prepare you for dealing with revisiting an estimate and thoroughly explain the issues and how they’re going to be addressed moving forward to prevent any additional time or money spent on the project.
If you’re ready to start your next software project, and you’re looking for an honest, knowledgeable firm with nearly 20 years’ experience, reach out to us. We’d love to hear your ideas.