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Challenges of Effort Estimation in Software Development Projects

Effort Estimation in Software Development ProjectsSoftware development project managers won't have to be reminded of the challenges of effort estimation. Despite the importance of the estimation process in project planning, trying to value the costs and efforts of software development projects beforehand is still an extremely difficult task, and overruns are not unheard of. However, it's obvious that improving the accuracy of effort estimation and thus the efficiency of project planning yields various benefits for a company. So how does one go about refining their planning process?

Inaccuracy in Effort Estimation

Naturally, the importance and difficulty of project planning and especially effort estimation varies by teams, companies and projects. Compared to Agile planning, where teams usually only plan the next short sprint (and are even able to use feedback from previous sprints or releases), planning an entire Waterfall SDLC process can be a challenging task.

Bias from price-sensitive clients, relying on subjective judgement (however expert it may be) or estimates from a single source as opposed to several sources, and mainly the lack of historical data are all factors that negatively impact estimation accuracy. While some of these risks can be mitigated by organizational changes and revised management methods, the latter also requires the use of suitable tools. Collecting and organizing historical data, and analyzing it to improve the accuracy of estimates for future projects can only be efficiently performed by using software tools that support these processes.

Track, Evaluate and Plan Performance with codeBeamer

codeBeamer offers various features that support efficient planning and estimation – by filtering, organizing and displaying relevant data in an insightful way, codeBeamer helps you accurately assess your processes' cost and work needs, and evaluate your teams' performance. Use the Project Browser's built-in efficiency dashboard to access working item trends, release activities, burndown charts and an in-depth activity stream for each of your projects. This lets you evaluate past and current projects, while also giving you insights on how your team is progressing with projects, helping your planning processes.

Customizable Wikis (through Wiki plugins) offer you the option of setting up your own dashboards to track and organize data, thus helping the planning process. Various charts and graphs such as burndown charts, velocity trend charts, Gantt charts, sprint breakdown and remaining time plugins all support the effort estimation process, and they can also be exported to PDF.

The Project Planner is an adept tool that helps you plan releases and sprints, giving you an overview of tasks, along with story points and other relevant details. The team commitment filter in Project Planner allows you to filter tasks to team members, letting you track (and thus, plan) the performance of each member individually.

The system not only helps accurately assess the time needed, it can also assist you in shortening that time. By re-using requirements with codeBeamer's Requirements Library, your teams can save time in what is a slow and tedious process. When planning the required efforts and costs of your projects, take into consideration that the duration of requirements definition can be dramatically shortened by simply re-using previous requirements.

As shown by the above examples, project planning and effort estimation isn't just a question of management methods and decisions. That said, it's not an insurmountable challenge either: efficient planning can be achieved by using the right tools. Start your free project to see how you could take advantage of codeBeamer's various advanced features to fine-tune your effort estimation process.