Saturday, April 12, 2008

Responsibility in Software Estimation

This blog post will be short for me. I will be blunt and to the point with my following opinions.

Estimating the cost and time to develop software is just that, an ESTIMATION.

1) It is foolish on the part of those hearing an estimate and then later representing it as a promise.

2) It is unethical and dishonest for the development team to hide the discovery that an estimated delivery date and cost is now known to be in error.

Why do clients and product management still to this day take software estimates and turn them into hardened dates and commitments? I understand that estimated dates are used to coordinate many parallel events and used to queue up related tasks so that everyone can rendezvous at a product delivery date. Why does product management still try to work in a fantasy software development world that simply does not exist? I can not speak for them because I am not one of them.

I am a developer and I will speak from my experience on why development teams hide the knowledge that dates are slipping. They do it because it is in their best interest. They sell themselves a lie that they can catch up, do more, bend time, or some other activity which history has shown does not happen.

Why is it in their best interest to hide the truth? You can answer this yourself. Just examine your company or clients and reflect on how they responded to the truth when it was given them.

For you developers out there, it is my opinion that you should tell the truth on the current state of the product and the outstanding features and give corrected and updated estimates as soon as they are known. If the client or customer doesn't respond favorably to this behavior you should decide on if this is a job you want to keep instead of waiting to see if they are going to fire you for being late. Just my opinion.

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