Estimates, how we do it, what to expect and not expect of the estimates
Contributor: Alex Sharko, PM at Archer Software
Most of the projects start with the estimation process when the vision and features set of the projects are evaluated and transformed to the work plan and needed working tracks and efforts ROM estimate.
So what is takes to build the estimate, what you get and how are we doing it?
According to Archer process based on mix of RUP guidelines, Agile methodologies and our own expertise the estimation as a few steps process:
1. Analyst and Project Manager decompile, analyze and discuss incoming project requirements.
The outputs of this step are the Vision and Features list or set of User stories. They indicate the project business context, top level description of required features, project scope and technical constraints. These are the materials that will now go to technical experts for further analysis.
2. 2+ experts like developers, architects, DBAs, netOps are making the features breakdown, indicate the technical risks, make the efforts estimation.
During this step the estimation team define the needed working tracks like frontend/backend/mobile development, break down the features to minimal working items, indicates risks and define contingency plan to run in case these risks rise up. In case if the risks are too high Archer may propose client to run a small POC phase prior to the main project to run the needed research or build working prototype that will clarify and decrease the risks potential.
When these steps are done, team makes the effort estimations – each expert prepares the optimistic and pessimistic estimations of identified work items. Project manager and/or architect them sum up the final opt/pes estimation based on all experts sub-estimates.
In case when more accurate estimation is needed to the big scope of specifics of the project – we use the PERT (Three-point estimation) approach.
3. Using the set of methodology best practices and industry guidelines team now make the estimation of QA and other services tracks (like Infrastructure set up, bugfixes estimation, project documentation design and support, etc.).
4. Based on the technical efforts estimation, Project Manager finishes up the process, building the draft working plan, required team structure and project potential timeframe.
Our teams are doing the estimations a lot, so the whole process usually takes for Archer depending on project size from 2 to 4 working days to wrap over and deliver the outgoing estimate which as mentioned, includes timeframe and team draft, efforts and cost estimate, project vision, features and works breakdown, identified risks and mitigation plans. In some cases along the road team also may create the top level architecture draft and cloud infrastructure deployment plan where applicable.
Unless there is a specific situation when project analysis may require a deep research of requirements design initiated by client to have a solid documentation pack built in advance, for all the regular cases the estimation process that Archer makes and all the output documents are free of charge for the client.
So what actually to expect from the estimation we provide and what are the constraints here:
- It defines the project scope based on existing features set. If new features will come in down the road – they and potentially the works on related parts of the system will be re-estimated
- The more general requirements are – the more general will be the estimate. We will not run the process if we don’t understand the features or don’t know how to solve them after project will start, but we are ready to fit in certain level of unclarity to the scope in case when client is read to have the same attitude to the estimation made.
- Estimation will change along the road. In spite of what business model https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Business_model you will choose running with us the project, we will make the re-estimation on critical project milestones to have the best possible vision of project remaining scope.
- Based on our experience we can say that scope is always changing and so do the estimation following this change. Taking this into account we always recommend our clients to consider the Time&Material model first.
So if you have a project on hands and you would like us to scope it down, please feel free to contact us via e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org