Estimation Techniques in Software Development

In the software development industry, it’s common to work with developers who prefer to work with no commitments against timelines. For the most part, engineers find deadlines restrictive in their coding process. The estimation techniques in Software development for the developers are very important for the success of a project. On the other hand, business owners usually want strict timelines in order to keep their company on track. The difference in preferences typically results in stressful relationships for both parties as well as a lack of trust. It’s apparent that finding common ground will oftentimes be tricky, but from the perspective of the dev, here is what makes estimating timelines so strenuous.

Calculating the Software estimation area example

In order to approach this topic, we have found it beneficial to use an example that will take you back to math class. Finding the area of a square is a simple process. Multiply the length by the width and you have successfully solved the problem. Even a rectangle or triangle isn’t very complex, but what if I were to ask you to find the area of a blob?

Solving this problem requires a few more steps and a little deeper thinking, as the blobs lines are inconsistent and the shapes within it aren’t straight forward. Finding the area of this oblong shape can correlate to estimating a timeline for a project. Is it possible? Absolutely. But there many twists and turns that make the process complicated to estimate such as:

  • new designs
  • changing business requirements
  • unexpected dilemmas
  • new ideas

So, when the question of “Why is it always challenging to estimate a timeline for a software development project, and why is it usually incorrect?” arises, remember the “blob” and how it represents the inconsistencies of building software.

Even though calculating the area of the” blob” or in our case, determining the time frame for a specific project is difficult and less straightforward; that should be no excuse for faulty timelines. Time is valuable, clients want to know when their site or app can get up and running for testing and launch dates. Customers are relying on the software development company for a plan of action.

While on the other hand, the software development team also wants to please the customer as well as work on as many projects as possible. The business wants to complete the project in a timely fashion, therefore these timelines are a stressor for everyone involved in the project.

This problem brings us to the question of, “How do we ensure that our timelines are accurate to avoid these stressors?”  Cache Merrill, the founder of Zibtek, has been working in software development for over 20 years and has discovered a process that provides the client with an accurate timeline for their project.

Our timeline Software Estimation Process

The first step of software Estimation Process  for a project is to break down the elements of the project into small, digestible features. Through this process, it will be clear what individual features need to be built. In finding the area of the “blob” example, this would be breaking down that complex figure into smaller pieces that are easier and clearer to view and calculate.

Within the user stories, we then create detailed acceptance criteria for the feature. It’s integral to define and consider every scenario that the function could impact. By doing this, you will know exactly what “twists and turns” you may encounter while working. You’re eliminating any surprises that may come along with building this user story.

Work with a product owner who will coordinate proper backlog grooming and sprint planning meetings, to make sure all possible mishaps or diversions are thought through. If each user story isn’t detailed enough, your estimate will be vague and oftentimes incorrect, but as you add more detail your estimate will become more precise. Through properly planning, it is less likely that you will provide your users with an incorrect timeline.

How does software development time estimation correspond with Zibtek’s practical agile approach?
In the Agile Manifesto, it describes the agile method as “Responding to change over following a plan”. While software development time estimation timelines are a continuous dilemma in the software development industry, Zibtek has taken a practical agile approach to the process by recognizing that alterations and fluctuations are inevitable. However, we put forth an effort to anticipate these changes by writing detailed acceptance criteria for each story. Knowing that the “twists and turns” of the project often increase the amount of time spent on a story; Zibtek protects the current sprint and works in reasonable periods of time by providing about a month of visibility. Zibtek strives to embrace change by understanding that every company will want to alter the software or requirements when the project is used in a real-world scenario. Although we are striving to embrace and work with a fluctuating project, we also value efficiency. To remedy this, we created a plan of action to control unexpected modifications.

As discussed in this article, properly planning is an important step in estimating accurate timelines. Zibtek offers services such as planning exercises and assistance with engineering building. Therefore, if you have any questions about our services, please feel free to contact us.

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