How Project Estimations Lead to Successful Software Projects
When you start a new software development project, you want to do everything you can to ensure its success. One way to do that is to include an estimation phase so you can gauge how long the project should take and cost. Estimating helps keep your software project on track and on budget, preventing the overruns that many companies experience.
Using estimation for more than just budgeting
As software development projects become larger and more complex, it can be increasingly more challenging to determine all the features and meet deadlines. Senior management can put a lot of pressure on development teams to provide accurate cost estimates as they look to define their annual budgets. Ultimately, they need a concrete way to determine whether the software project is feasible and matches business priorities. The best way to do that is with proper detailed estimates.
Estimates create realistic development scenarios
Solid estimates detailed and focus on a few core metrics (instead of all business metrics) will help managers gain control of their projects better. They’ll be able to create realistic development scenarios that meet business objectives and priorities. Realistic development scenarios make it easy for managers to make decisions that push the project forward while keeping the project on time and budget. For example, if you have a detailed and clear understanding of all the features and functionality, both the business and development teams will have a better direction to move forward and track the success of a project.
Estimates provide realistic targets for teams
Not only does a software design plan with accurate estimates lead to a happier senior management team, but it also leads to a happier development team. Members have a better idea of the overall project picture and how their work ties into the end deliverable (something that does not always happen with software development projects). It changes their perspective from the small to the big picture, so they understand the value their individual work brings to the project, and business, as a whole.
Estimates demonstrate the partnership between business and technology
Creating a project estimation can be challenging if it’s only done from the business or technology side. A complete estimate can only happen when both sides work together; when the business and technology teams come together to combine their information.
The business teams lay out the project business requirements and general timeline. Then, it’s up to the solution architect (SA) to pick up the baton. The SA is the one typically responsible for organizing the development work on any project. They’re responsible for converting the project requirements into an architecture and design that’ll be the blueprint for the software solution being created. Their ultimate design is based on design best practices, past experience with the industry and customer, and their personal experience and skills.
A good SA will translate a project into a design and architecture at a high level that’s then filled in by the rest of the team. Using that top-down approach, managers can create estimates for each phase of the project, each piece of functionality that’s being delivered, right down to the lowest detailed level. But it all starts with a solid overall solution design created by an experienced SA.
Estimates are not fixed, but dynamic
No matter the size of the software development project, estimates can always be changed. Changes may be needed for a variety of reasons (increase/decrease in project scope, change in resources and personnel, technical limitations previously unknown). Regardless of why, estimates can, and are, changed all the time, providing both the development team and the customer with an updated and accurate forecast of timeline and cost.
Whenever a software project is ‘descoped’, the development team will remove work items or functionality to meet the budget or timeline requirements. A detailed estimate list will help everyone involved decide on the priority of each affected item, and remove them as needed. “Must have” items will remain in the project, while “nice to haves” will be removed or deprioritized. But this can only happen with a detailed estimate.
The next time you’re scoping out a software development project, take the time to create a detailed estimate for it. Team members, customers, and management will appreciate knowing precisely what is going on and when, and more importantly, how much it’ll cost. Your software development projects will be more successful in the long-term.
To find out more about software development project estimation and how it can lead to more successful projects, check out our Beginner’s Guide to Software Discovery.