Updated July 3, 2023
Introduction to Software Projects Estimation
This is an outline on software projects estimation. Project budgets, time, and resources form crucial parts of project management and can surely be the deciding factors for the success or failure of your project. While you may possess an excellent idea and consider yourself an exceptional project manager, the true measure of your abilities lies in the long-term success of your projects and the extent to which it aligns with your estimates for software projects.
The entire purpose of software development came as a competitive alternative to many hardware utilities and products. The software has consistently helped keep costs in check compared to hardware, bringing a fresh perspective to the industrial sector. With increasing amounts of software being designed for different systems and computers, it became necessary for software developers to adopt the ways of project management, which were restricted to manufacturing and production in the early days. As timelines, scopes, and costs were key components within the entire scope of developing software, project managers soon realized how inversely proportionate these components were. When faced with a tighter timeline, the cost of completing the project increased significantly.
This led to expanding the scope and the need to consider various permutations and combinations to find viable solutions. Cost, Scope, and Time became project managers’ centers of control and manipulation. They have made it a best practice to engage in software project estimation, thoroughly examining every aspect and assigning associated figures that ensure a well-balanced output for the project. This became an effectively challenging job to do and also critical to business.
Software Projects Estimation
Project planning and control heavily relied on the estimates provided, placing project managers in two challenging situations:
- Underestimation of the Project – In this situation, you will mostly understaff your project, scope it too little around the quality aspect, and even keep a tight schedule as you don’t expect it to be a huge project.
- Overestimation of the Project – In this situation, you will mostly over-staff your project, scope it beyond its actual worth and quality requirements, and keep a flexible and large schedule.
In both these scenarios, you will be running into losses and spending more money on your projects: first, to compensate for the shortage of resources, and second, for absolutely nothing.
To dodge these situations and have a fair estimation of your entire project, you must understand your project completely before entering into the software project estimation part. The basics of software project estimation involve the use of 4 steps. They are as follows:
- Project Size – Estimating the size of the development software in either Line of Code (LOC) or Function Points (FP)
- Resource – Estimating the effort in person hours or months
- Schedule – Estimating the schedule in calendar months or calendar days
- Cost – Estimating the project cost in a relevant currency
To estimate these aspects of a project accurately, it’s essential and beneficial for you to latch onto the different methods and tools available. You can integrate these tools and techniques into your project’s software and various tools or use them as stand-alone tools to help you generate accurate estimations upon which to base your project.
Some of these methods and tools include:
- Wideband Delphi Estimation Method – Used to estimate the efforts to be put into software, the wideband Delphi estimation method uses the principles of the Delphi method, a structured communication method used by project managers as a forecasting tool.
- Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) – This technique enables the project manager to decompose a software project into smaller, manageable components that can be measured and estimated best. The approach used here is based on the deliverables of each unit the project targets.
- Program Evaluation and Review Technique (PERT) – A project manager can use this statistical tool to analyze the various tasks involved in completing a software project successfully. The Critical Path Method (CPM) identifies the shortest route to complete a particular task, activity, or project and attaches the time to complete it.
- COCOMO Model – This algorithmic-based cost estimation tool uses the basic regression formula on the history of project data.
- Use Case Point Analysis (UPA) – Used specifically for software development projects, Use case Points is a software estimation technique that can help you forecast the size of the software project and accordingly take further decisions and steps.
- Function Point Analysis (FPA) – With function points, this estimation technique looks into smaller components of the software project. It establishes the functionality and values each function adds to the project and, in turn, to the developed product.
Requirements for Software Project Estimation
Project managers are always expected to present the best and most accurate estimation of the effort, the schedule, and the cost of their software projects. With project management in place, concentrated efforts can be made to achieve the closest estimation possible with the help of methods and techniques. For this training, you don’t need to have exquisite knowledge or certification in your hand, but all you need are the following two things:
- Basic Computer Knowledge – most techniques now come as tools and are normally part of a system or stand-alone. Computer knowledge will help you understand these techniques and their internal workings better, should you later want to customize them per your software project requirements.
- Zeal to Learn – As a project manager, knowing you can never learn enough is essential. Your learning graph should always continue on its momentum and keep getting higher. Within a field like project management, with updates and developments at almost every turn, it’s important to keep yourself refreshed about the different methods and learn how to put the theory into practice. Learning can be your greatest tool in all your software project estimation endeavors.
While this is targeted at individuals who play a key and important role in the decision-making aspect of the projects they are part of at different organizations, this training is specifically meant for you if you are:
- A Project Management Professional – You will need to understand the entire pretext this falls under and how estimations and forecasting, in the most accurate way, can enable your project to set the course for success and enhance your skill set, opening many doors and opportunities for you.
- A Project Manager – You form the backbone of the project, and the responsibility of handling the project from end to end lies on you. If you haven’t done well with your project estimations, you must crack this egg.
- Project Management Aspirants – Students who won’t cut into project management teams and aspire to become project management professionals or managers later.
- Project Sponsors and anyone interested in learning the Project Closure stage.
- Anyone who wants to make a name in the project management field has the determination and leadership skills to lead a team and direct a software development project to completion.
Q1. How accurate will my estimations be, and complete them successfully?
Answer: Your estimations for your software project depend on two things:
- Your level of application of the concepts to the real-life scenarios
- Your caliber as a project manager and your relativity to the team and stakeholders
This article leads you down the correct path where you can understand estimation concepts in detail and logic. It depends on your dedication and application that the teachings become practical examples of accurate estimations. Estimation cannot always be spot-on, but we’re looking at closest-to-accurate estimations that can help your project.
Q2. Are these proven techniques? Can they be used separately, or do all the techniques described need to be implemented on a single project?
Answer: These techniques have been tried and tested, and when implemented correctly, they have a high success rate in software projects. Each estimation technique addresses a different section of the project: time, scope, effort, or cost. Understanding your software project and the training will help you decide which technique to use.
Q3. Do these techniques and explanations only work on software projects? Can this knowledge be transferred to other types of projects as well?
Answer: Absolutely! These techniques aren’t restricted to only software projects and can be used in diverse projects within the project management paradigm.
Becoming a proficient estimator won’t happen overnight; you must work and strive to make it work for you. Whether you’re a project manager, a project professional, or even a student aspiring to join the world of project management, reading this article can impact your project management career. You will better put tools and techniques to use and understand the project definition more in detail.
In this article, Software Projects Estimation, apart from understanding the software project estimation and learning to implement the various techniques, you can advance to the next pedestal of your project management career. If you’re eyeing that promotion, you will stand a good chance of extending your capabilities to grab the top spot.
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