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Discussion on: Why developers are SO sh*t at estimating!

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jaloplo profile image
Jaime López

You are right, totally right with your article. I'm currently in a position where I have to estimate a lot of projects/solutions and estimating the time is something that makes me crazy. Overall because I could be the person in charge of that project and it's completely possible that I forgot some tasks or constraints.

In my company, we only estimate the effort for coding/configuring phase and then complete the rest of the phases (analysis, design, testing, ...) as a percentage of it. For example, I estimate implementing an API could be 5 days of coding, the testing phase will be 80% of it so we will spend 4 days. The whole task will be the sum of all these phases getting a final time of 9 days for this case.

In addition to this, we set a lot of assumptions to avoid forgetting anything. Think of a web application you estimated creating a simple user interface but that doesn't mean anything to your customer. You need to add some assumptions for limiting the scope like: no CSS rules will be developed. This is something the customer will understand or, at the end of the day, you will have as a shield to defend your position.

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dillieo profile image
Sean Patterson

We take this approach too, but also add another batch of time for iterations. How many times does the mock-up not do justice to the task or a fringe case wasn't caught in the original API design? Those things we take into account for as well when we estimate.

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jaloplo profile image
Jaime López

I learned that estimations are a value we said based on experience, calculus or any other technique we used. So, if a customer requires an API implementation for their business logic, we will estimate the implementation of a number of services and their complexity, let's say 5 services with medium complexity, and not the final solution - a description of what each of these 5 services will do like a black and white box. In the assumptions section (or any other place), we will define what means "medium complexity" so fringe cases will be considered out of the scope of the current project and we should include a note telling need an assessment to give a proper estimation for that issue, problem, requirement or system.

We, as estimators (that exists?), need to limit what we are estimating and considering. We cannot give the final solution in the estimation so we are not able to include fringe cases if we don't study them.

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bootcode profile image
Robin Palotai

I liked Making Things Happen (aka The Art of Project Management), which despite the title, is a totally BS-free book about overseeing a project. Has great advice about estimation. You can pop it open anywhere your current interests are.

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Luke Garrigan Author

Thank you for this, I love hearing how people take different approaches to estimate tasks. Your approach is very interesting, we do a relatively similar thing at work although we have Quality Assurance engineers who estimate the effort for testing and that gets bundled on top of the overall estimate.

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jaloplo profile image
Jaime López

Thanks for this. QA team is a good thing to test the whole product but there are a lot of tests in a project lifecycle. You have to include some effort for unit testing, integration tests, smoke test, user acceptance tests, etc. So, there should be something in the estimation to cover testing saying what kind of test are included in the estimation so you can adjust the percentage of the effort of the team.

Do your estimations include the time QA team will spend in the project? This is something you should consider to include inside or outside your estimation and you should co-work with your QA mate.