Towards sanity in software project estimation: a chat with Steve McConnell

1 2 3 4 5 Page 4
Page 4 of 5

The consequences at that point are inevitable: the project is underscoped, understaffed, and undermanaged. It runs longer than expected, and takes more budget than expected. The irony is that I'm convinced that there is a workable business case for most of those projects, but it requires the business to engage more seriously with the initial estimates that are so far out of alignment with the initial business case.

cio.com: Twenty-five years ago, I was taught a reasonable methodology for estimating the length of a project: Ask the developer how long it'll take, then increment the time unit by one and double the number. Thus "1 day" --> "2 weeks" and "3 hours" --> "6 days." It's been frighteningly accurate.

What you describe sounds like the various riffs on "This is the due date because Marketing says we have to ship by then. So get it done!"

McConnell: Sometimes it's marketing, sometimes it's a customer, sometimes it's upper management. One factor is that marketers, sales staff, and upper management all tend to be better negotiators than technical staff, and so when marketing (or whoever) says "get it done," technical staff ends up losing that negotiation.

But it isn't really the technical staff that loses; it's the business that loses, because it sets up a situation in which it pretends for months or years that it can do something that it can't. And that is ultimately at least as harmful to marketing, sales, and upper management as to the technical staff.

cio.com: Oh! What a great point, and very true.

Do you think that cio.coms and app dev managers are just so used to "negotiating" that they do it automatically instead of listening to the tech staff? Or is it something else? In any case, what can they do to ensure that they both get accurate estimates (not "what management wants to hear, and we'll slip anyway") and learn how to listen to the out-of-expectation answer?

McConnell: One executive told me that he'd experienced very good results from putting technical staff through assertiveness training.

Related:
1 2 3 4 5 Page 4
Page 4 of 5
Discover what your peers are reading. Sign up for our FREE email newsletters today!