The beginning of a software project has many unknown variables surrounding it creating a challenge to determine time and cost estimates for its execution and completion. Most companies use a repeatable estimation process to determine the time and cost estimates while others use an estimation tool to determine the variables needed. Irrespective of the technique employed, the focus should always be on the estimation practice for obtaining accurate values.
Early on in the industry this was the main concern when talking about estimation however with paradigm shifts in the operation models and growing competition among established as well as emerging players in software development, time was now recognized as another main concern.The quicker a company could produce an estimate, the greater its chances at winning the project.
This brought two considerable challenges to the development companies:
- To be able to be champion in project estimation with a high level of accuracy and establish themselves as experts amongst competitors and
- Provide estimates in the quickest time possible to win more projects
To take both of these challenges head on, manual estimation may not be the best route as the process is lengthy, laborious and there is a high potential of risk and bias involved. Rather an estimation tool would be a better process to face these challenges. The correct estimation tool will automate, standardize and quicken the estimation process. When using a software estimation tool there are certain best practices which should be judiciously followed by the companies using the tool. These practices are essential for enhancing the efficiency and effectiveness of the software estimation tool.
Tips for Following Best Practices for Estimation
- The estimation process should be preceded by listing the primary tasks and processes which should be accomplished in a phased manner.
- A detailed task analysis of the particular project is the primary step before estimation. Decomposing the system and getting the exact list of all requirements which would trigger an action into the system is what creates the exact estimates. A tool is not magic but a means to an end. It will automate and standardize the process but how accurate the estimates are, solely depends upon how well the client has listed down his requirements in a thorough sense.
- Using project planning and specification documents helps to streamline.
- Every task should capable of being recorded or itemized under one broad category or type so that every action is accounted in estimation.
- There should be a complexity factor which should be capable of accounting the nature of the project. The factor should be a multiplier of the degree of complexity and could be increased or decreased with changing conditions.
- The constraints, hidden factors, and assumptions should be unravelled to make adjustments for defining the scope.
- Unavoidable risks re-use factors and what –if scenarios should be considered and estimation should add in those factors adequately so that both over estimation and underestimation is avoided.
In conclusion, estimation in itself is tricky issue surrounded with lot of uncertainties, but if best practices are followed, it could act as the strongest force to manage risks and justify project viability. The only focus needs to be on accuracy and quickness of estimation which again stems from the same practices listed above. Besides these, the developers need to acknowledge that uncertain variables will always be there to cloud estimation so no one can be 100% correct. The goal should be to arrive at the closest and best possible results.
By making use of a software estimation tool which is capable of taking care of the best practices in estimation by scoping, planning and limiting the project environment optimally, a company can significantly improve its estimation practices, reduce risks, and enhance the project success rate considerably. The direct impact is on its bottom line and brand name vis a vis its competitors thereby helping the company to establish itself as experts in the industry landscape.