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Saturday, June 28, 2014

Fighting estimation fatigue - Part 4: Choose the right estimation model

The availability of vast number of software estimation models sometimes make it confusing for the project manager to pick the right estimation model. Moreover, not every one wants to be expert in estimation techniques and models. If you have enough budget allocated for planning phase of your project (I doubt you would often get that in any software project), you can hire an estimation expert who would have detail expertise on various software cost estimation models and pick the right model for your project. But for those who don't want to invest their time on going through each of the models (some of which I briefly explained in the post Introduction to standard estimation models and methods), I've created a sample matrix that would provide some sort of guideline to help you identify the right estimation model. At the very least, gives you starting point.

For example, if the software project uses the Object Oriented Programming technology, almost all the estimation models can be used. Now if the development methodology is taken into consideration and if it happens to use Agile Development methodology, then the options become narrow. In that case a few of the above models remains to be a pick from the matrix e.g. Use Case Point, User Story Point, and Delphi Method. Though the above framework would provide some initial guideline to narrow down the list of models, but at the end it’s up to the Project Manager and the Software development team to decide on the best fit models for their project.

If I were you, I would not settle on a single estimation model from the above matrix but try out at least two to three estimation methods for my initial estimation and if all of them comes with a close proximity of 10% - 20%, then probably you can go with any one you like. But if you find out a large gap in your initial estimations from those different methods, then you probably should be very careful while providing your commitment to your company executives. The variation in estimations tells you that you're handling a project that has more unknowns and lot of uncertainties. I believe we haven't forgotten the lesson of the cone of uncertainty.

In my final post of this software estimation series, I would cover on the communication part of the software estimation and some of the industry best practices.

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