Typical Software Estimation

Me, “What is the biggest software project that you have ever worked on?”

Typical response, “20,000 hours!”

Me, “Wait.  I did not ask how long it took, I asked how big.

Typical response, “$2 million dollars.”

Me, “Is my question vague did you not understand me.  I asked how big.”

Typical response, “What?”

Me, “How big?”

Typical response, “What?”

Me, “Okay, we are not getting anywhere.  Let me try another approach.  How big is your house?”

Typical response, “2,000 square feet.”

Me, “Good. You understand the question.  You just gave me a unit of measure of size.  So what is the biggest software project that you have worked on?”

Typical response, “20,000 hours.”

Me, “We seem to be back at square one.  Let me try another approach, how much was your house and how long did it take to build?”

Typical response, “$250,000 dollars and about 6 months.”

Me, “$250,000 dollars is a cost measure and 6 months is a time measure.  Get it.”

Typical response, “I think so?”

Let’s try again, “What is the biggest software project that you have worked on?”

Typical response, “About 42 people worked on the project?”

Me, “I feel like I am getting nowhere because I did not ask how many people worked on the project. I am not asking how many people, how many hours or how much it cost, I am asking how big.”

Typical response, “I don’t know.”

Me, “The past is the best indicator of the future.  Your estimates needs to be based upon past performance.”

Typical Response, “Wow, that is deep.  How do I proceed.”

Me, “It is not that hard.  Determine the average size  and average cost of a few past software projects in function points.  This gives you historical dollars per function points.  If you determine the number of function points for a new project, then you can easily determine the cost.”  The cost is number of function points for your new project x historical cost per function point equals total cost.

Typical response, “I don’t have time to do all that because I need to start coding.”

Me, “Typical.”

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