Why is Software Project Estimation so Difficult?
More often than not, you’ll hear people working in software development say it’s hard to do proper software project estimation.
I couldn’t agree more with this statement. As a software developer and a CEO of a development company, I myself have encountered this challenge a lot. For years. And the challenge was there for us until we decided to build a product that would help make software development estimations and, generally, project estimations a bit easier and more predictable. That’s where the idea of Dowork.ai was born.
Let’s see why software project estimation is so difficult.
First of all, it’s safe to say that wanting to produce a project plan that involves budgeting, timelines, and outcomes is a pretty natural thing to do. Everyone wants this – from a team of freelancers, a medium-size outsourcing agency to in-house development departments. This is a best practice established by other industries such as the construction industry. In construction, there are certain processes to help achieve a relatively accurate level of project estimation. However, things are a bit different when it comes to software development.
To put it shortly – because there are too many uncertainties in software development.
And, no, it’s not that software developers are lazy. It’s just more complicated.
For software developers, there are two main levels of uncertainty:
Uncertainty related to the requirements – Usually, if it’s an outsourcing software development company, the developers have to work with clients who are not that tech-savvy and cannot produce specific requirements.
Uncertainty related to the technical side of the work – Most non-trivial software development requires the developers to do something or use a technology they’ve never used before.
Based on these two levels of uncertainty, comes a list of problems:
- Adding more developers doesn’t ensure a quicker fix
If there is a technical problem, you cannot just throw more developers at it and expect them to resolve it faster. Each technical problem comes with a learning curve that you need to accept until adding more people and turning it into chaos.
- Focusing on money will make your team less motivated
Sometimes, the C-level of an outsourcing organization or even the Project Manager tends to pressure the developers to come up with shorter timelines to keep the clients happy. But the problem is that you cannot pretend that a project will take less time to complete just to please the client. Otherwise, you’ll both end up in a lose-lose situation.
- The quality of a software solution might degrade
Unfortunately, a lot of software development companies skip the testing phase. Just because they want to deliver the product/feature in a shorter time frame. However, testing plays a key role in software development. Forgetting, skipping, or failing to test can affect the quality of the end product hugely.
When should you estimate a project and how?
Clients usually expect estimations at a very early stage. Expecting accurate or near-accurate estimates before the team is engaged is not the best idea.
If the Project Manager makes sure to break down the project into phases and tasks and allows the development team to re-evaluate and re-estimate those, there are more chances of properly estimating the project.
Let’s also touch base on a few actions you can take to go a step closer to accurate software project estimation.
- Don’t jump into estimating a project right away without prepping your team.
Like I mentioned earlier, the clients will expect you to come up with project estimates very early. From their perspective, that’s the best thing to do to compare vendors. However, from the perspective of accurate project estimation, that’s a big mistake since it will all be guesswork.
- Manage expectations by communicating with the stakeholders in a straightforward manner.
Some of the features the client is requesting to be built within a specific timeframe won’t be doable just because of the time constraints. You need to clearly communicate this to the stakeholders by showing them how much time and effort (human resources) that specific phase of the project will take to complete.
- Use your experience and the experience of your most skilled estimators/team members.
We all sometimes tend to be too optimistic about the estimates we give. The best way to avoid being overoptimistic is by using historical data. Take a look at similar projects (or tasks at least) that you have done before and try to compare. Also, try to involve your most experienced estimators as much as possible.
How can Dowork.ai help do better software project estimation?
Dowork.ai is specifically built for the very initial stages of project planning. Before you shake hands with the client, go to Dowork.ai, add estimators, break down the project into smaller units (phases, task groups) and start estimating in a team. See how much involvement each department or team member will have in the specific project/phase. Then calculate the resources and the timelines accordingly. Most of this is automated, so you will see optimistic, most likely, and pessimistic estimates and will be able to find the averages.
An exciting addition to what you’ll get with Dowork.ai is that soon we will be launching our AI component. AI will analyze your past projects and suggest project estimates based on them.
Give us a try today!