How to estimate a software project?

Written by
COO at Inoxoft, former .Net Software Engineer

To estimate a software project means to calculate the time & costs of the project completion. This practice helps the client establish the right scope of work, understand what timeline is needed, and whether it is feasible with regard to his/her business goals.

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Why Do We Need Project Estimation?

Projects that were not estimated beforehand can have overruns, be overdue, and cost more than the set budget of the client. And it’s counterproductive to let things go on their own. So, to plan future projects, gain experience in project development and receive the other benefits, we turn to project estimation.

How to Estimate a Software Project?

There are two methods to estimate the project cost. These are:

The first method is more fixed and linear while the second belongs to the Agile approach and is more flexible.

The process of evaluation consists of four main objectives:

  1. Evaluate the scope of work
  2. Determine complexity
  3. Define smaller manageable tasks
  4. Estimate each task independently

These objectives are mostly theoretical. At practice, we can customize the process of evaluation. For example, you can use the following approaches:

  • Compare the new project with similar products you have carried out. And if the functionality of the products match, consider past experiences so as to avoid negative results.
  • Consider external expertise. Hire a more experienced team with specific knowledge in the area or ask your partners for help to learn new insight.
  • Estimate the project with the team members and discuss the results.

The possibility to choose one method among the many shows that there is no solution to fit all into one size. It is almost impossible and quite challenging to make an estimate that covers all the issues that could come forward. Software development goes with a flow, where the team can discover and learn something new about the process of deployment and this new knowledge may impact the estimate drastically.

Software Project Estimation Checklist

  • Examine statistics
  • Account for the risks
  • An estimate can be flexible
  • Consider the immersion time
  • Individual work speed matters
  • Always admit your deviations as soon as possible

Different industries have the same core processes of software project estimation. Overruns are eliminated at the start with the help of accurate planning.

Estimation Tools Used

There are a number of software tools applicable to carry out an estimation easier:

  • GitLab, Jira, and other Agile task management services can be used for this purpose.
  • Redmine with a cost estimation add-on provides easy calculations.
  • EcoSys can track changes and correlate man-hours with cost.
  • Google Sheets and MS Excel provide automated calculation as well.

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