Save Time in Software Estimation and Project Management through Automated Tools

Time is the most critical and scarce resource for every manager.

Estimating the software project quick enough is critical to bid and win more projects in a highly competitive landscape. Many companies bid for the same project and may provide roughly similar estimates with intensive calculation going down the process of software estimation. But you can create a differentiation and get a competitive advantage only if you possess the capability to produce estimates fast enough. So can you provide both: fairly accurate and quickest estimates? If you know the way you have the competitive advantage.

The story doesn’t end here. Sustaining and managing a project is an equally challenging task. Efficient project management procedures would again help to create your company’s differentiation vis-a-vis your competitors.

This is easier said than done as managing projects through email is always difficult. Not everybody involved in the project remains in the email loop resulting in missed information. Important messages can get missed by sheer overlook. In the absence of a project management application, transparency often gets ignored, collaborative exchange of information does not happen and changes in tasks do not get automatically updated or noticed. [1]

This necessitates that the software development company revamp its software estimation and project management practices and institute an easy to use, automatic and standardized software tool for software estimation and project management. This would help you to save time, automate and standardize the procedures which are critical for successful project initiation and execution.

This sets the stage for the next question: What should be the ideal characteristics of such a software application both for project estimation and later on project management?

Before we actually decide upon taking up a project, some important decisions needs to be taken both by the development company and the client. The client asks for the estimates of the project to analyze the feasibility of the cost/budget and as developers we have to decide whether the client’s suitable cost and schedule estimates matches with our cost feasibility for project execution at all.

We have to do some calculations to arrive at the best possibility for a win-win situation. Similarly after taking up a project we need to have a bird’s eye view of the project management activities such as project tasks, completed tasks and remaining steps throughout the project life cycle for quick execution.

To quicken the processes, I would always recommend developers to use a software tool both for software project estimation and project management at a later stage. While, a software estimation tool is capable of standardizing, automating, quickening and lending granular detail to the estimates, the project management application is capable of planning, organizing, and deploying resources – people, tasks and project data in the most optimized fashion.

The primary objective of both categories of software is to help manage time in the most efficient manner, help in collaborative interactions over project and tasks, and enable project completion within scheduled time and budget.

Qualities of Automated Tools

We have come across different categories of tools and software for both estimation and project management, each one aided with its unique capabilities and strengths. As developers, we have to weigh our priorities and working models to choose the tool which best suit and complement our strategic direction. For organizations who do not have cost as their prime concern, or who engage in extremely big projects, choosing an estimation software with hefty license fees sounds feasible. But there are numerous developers who do not just bid for many small projects, but also have cost factor as a constraint. Their objective is to produce the quickest estimate to bid for and hence win more. For them, a software estimation tool which provides the flexibility to produce accurate estimates in the quickest time is more of a necessity than choice.

There has been an increase in the number of project management software over the years. The major concern here is the degree of complexity attached with each of them. Irrespective of the complexity and variety of tools, a project management application must be able to meet specific requirements for gaining acceptance.

Collaboration

In an agile development model, developers have to handle iteration, planning and user story estimation which involves the collaboration of entire agile teams to estimate the size of the user stories. Various techniques such as expert opinion, analogy technique or planning poker can be used for collaborative estimation. However, an estimation tool such as Quick FPA takes care of all risk and complexity levels and allows collaborative estimation in the quickest time. The results can be distributed across the screens.

Project management software should be capable of integrating the project related individual and separate tasks into a single one by enabling people to collaborate, share information, record time and project status report in real time. It can thus serve as an important communication tool to discuss concerns in real time.

Task Allocation and Sharing

A software estimation and project management tool should have competency assessment capabilities and allow the competency and skill level of different employees. Project management software distributes task accordingly based on the analysis. The software must allow employees to locate required information needed for task accomplishment and indicate individual contacts for query and concern handling. For projects requiring major documentation, the software should allow document sharing with option of editing, providing status update and promote transparency.

Time and Cost Management

The estimation tool should calculate the overall budget and schedule of the project, while the project management software should enable project managers to control budget by supporting them to take the most appropriate decision regarding resource allocation for achieving project efficiency. It must allow time tracking of finished and unfinished task to enable project managers to forecast estimated time to complete the project. The time management tool helps employees in setting alerts and deadlines helping in enhanced time management for task completion on or before the due date. Project management software should enable tracking the project progress by informing how many tasks have been accomplished, who has worked upon it, and how much work still needs to be done. The software should enable employees to share their task reports with the project lead and team members thereby eliminating the requirement of emails and meetings.

Project Overview

The project management software should be able to provide an overview of the project from beginning to end with background details and future outlook of the project. This capability would typically benefit a new hire to understand the project type, its current status and set the correct expectation level in short time duration.

Client Interaction

An additional capability of project management software would be allowing collaboration with external stakeholders such as the clients and vendors – who are not directly involved in the project. Enabling clients and vendors to access project files through separate profile credentials can allow clients to provide real time feedback, make changes, and review the progress of project.

The approach to choosing and using a software estimation tool along with project management software should be to analyze the business needs and evaluate the specific functionalities required to synchronize decision making. Choosing the correct package depends on creating the correct draft of ‘most needed’ and ‘optional’ capabilities in the software, doing thorough requirements analysis for all the story points. Evaluating broader factors such as cost and risk management capabilities with respect to project handling helps in taking the most appropriate decision. Intelekit will demonstrate how you can do the quickest estimation through its Quick FPA tool.

References

Calefato, Fabio and Filippo Lanubile.

“A Planning Poker Tool for Supporting Collaborative Estimation in Distributed.” 2011.Collaborative Development Group, Dipartimento di Informatica, Università degli Studi di Bari. 26 November 2015

Lee, Kevin.

“Project Management Software Pros & Cons.” 2015.Small Business Chron. 11 February 2015

Shin, Laura.

“Project Management Apps: Which Is Best For Your Team?” 21 October 2014. Forbes 11 February 2015

[1] Collaborative Development Group, Dipartimento di Informatica, Università degli Studi di Bari.
[2] Small Business Chron.