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Ceterum censeo… » More thoughts on estimation

Ceterum censeo…


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    12/14/2011 (4:42 pm)

    More thoughts on estimation


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    I’ve two further points to add to my estimation post.

    First, most estimation methods I’ve seen in Australia are bottom up estimates, produced by a group producing individual effort estimates. In contrast, a function count estimate is a top down approach, produced by a single person familiar with the scope and the process creates the estimate, with little collaboration.

    This allows the attractive characteristics of function point estimates. A single person is faster, cheaper, and more readily available than a group. That means a better estimation experience.*

    (There’s another way of producing quick and cheap estimates. Find a relevant guru, and ask them. Such a person could probably give a pretty strong estimate quickly. More power to you if you have such a person, and can spare them to produce estimates.)

    This brings me to my second point. The popularity of the group estimation is a reaction to a pattern of unreasonable estimations. Group estimation is seen as a method of getting better estimates, and to get the team to stick by a poor estimate (a.k.a. buy-in - does this really work past (say) 2 weeks?).

    The thing is: those poor estimates probably weren’t a result of function point counting. They were more likely a result of not using any estimation method. Therefore, both function point and group-based methods are viable alternatives. In which case, I’d value the speed of an established function point count more than the buy-in factor of a group estimate. Not that the two approaches are necessarily oppose each other.

    Building the evidence to establish a function point count method remains a significant task. Group estimation has a significantly lower cost of entry, which may explain its popularity. It may also explain some selection bias in my own experiences… I’ve never really worked in a place with sufficient focus on process to produce the required data.

    *I’m assuming that both methods are equally accurate, although that’s a subject that could bear some empirical investigation.

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