Software estimation

Can you commit to release date 323 days from now?

Toy Story 3. Release date: June 18, 2010. 323 days from now. Does not that amaze you? No? Most likely you are not a Project Manager. And certainly not a software Project Manager.

In software world we know how hard estimation is. And to date I have not met a Project Manager, who would commit to a delivery date a year from today. Well. one can commit, but what about keeping this commitment. Recently Boeing postponed first flight test for its Boeing 787 Dreamliner till early fall. This might not sound bad, but what if originally this aircraft was scheduled to take off in 2007?

Surprisingly, in entertainment industry they know how to give promises and keep commitments (at the very least with release dates). How do they do that? I do not know for sure, but my take is that the "secret sauce" should be in very effective scope management. And, of course, expectations management.

When film is announced not more than title, broad story topic, and, probably, some of cast is told out. More details are given out to feed public's interest, but I bet they never tell us about something that can not be done by release date with high degree of confidence.

There is certainly something to learn from this approach.

Weekend reading: Software projects planning and estimation

Here are some links to interesting stuff on software estimation and projects planning for weekend reading and watching.

  • Your Will Suffer From Power Laws. There are some things, which are the way the are, and you can not change them, even if you want. You can not spit upwind (at least, not with desirable result); you can not make an apple fall up, when you release it. So with our projects there are some things, which we simply have to learn to live with.
  • 10 Deadly Sins of Software Estimation webinar by Steve McConnell. Interesting presentation about art and science of software estimation. A lot of references to statistical studies, which give good food for thought.
  • Software estimation considered harmful? Alternative point of view on software estimation as presented by Steve McConnell. DeMarco and Lister refer to study, which suggest highest productivity on projects, which were not estimated at all. Does this mean we should not estimate our projects?
  • Evidence Based Scheduling. Practical approach to software estimation developed at Fog Creek.
  • Agile Management for Software Engineering: Dealing with Uncertainty. A chapter from great book by David Anderson. Something always goes wrong. The problem is that we do not know what and when, yet we have to plan and execute our projects. This chapter of David's book can help you.

Finally, a tip from Leo Babauta of ZenHabits to a project manager, who needs clear mind, when  project is derailed, for finding peace of mind.