Allisonperkel's Reviews > Software Estimation: Demystifying the Black Art

Software Estimation by Steve McConnell
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U_50x66
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Jul 04, 09

bookshelves: non-fiction, programming, tech
Read in July, 2009

"Software Estimation" by Steve McConnell provides a very broad overview of many ways to reduce the software estimation errors for your development cycle. Like all of Mr McConnell's books, he provides crystal clear writing with tons of techniques that are ready for application in the real world.

One of the many great things about "software Estimation" is the sheer number of methods he gives. From Lines of code, to function points, to similar projects, to industry estimates (broken down by sub category so that database is different from embedded devices), to t shirt sizing, to maintaining development history: he makes it clear that you have a lot of different options available to you. He takes great pains to emphasize that one size does not fit all. Additionally he gives rationales for when the estimate techniques work in a project's lifecycle.

With all the methods described, another point driven home is that software is something of an art and that you can reduce the amount of uncertainty but you can never fully remove it. None of the methods that improve estimation are silver bullets. I love that he draws the line in the sand here. Its very true and in fact he goes a step further, pointing out that on successful projects the "cone of uncertainty" converges as the project matures. The converse is also true. Wise words indeed.

The final chapter feels more like a tack on, however the message contained therein is something that needs to be stated again and again: marketing/management is not the enemy. It is important to remember that everyone has the same goals and that the battle really should be a collaboration. However good this chapter was, it still felt out of place.

There are a few niggling issues that I had. The biggest gripe is that he talks a lot about estimation software packages. In fact, he makes assumptions that the reader has knowledge of these packages. Working in start-ups, I've never even heard of these packages until this book. Its a small gripe, but it did detract. Another issue would be some of the examples on applying the various techniques towards the end of the book were far too glossy and far to dry. I think there was some good information there but you, as the reader, will need to make a few assumptions. Which, to me, is always a dangerous thing. Not as bad as fighting a land war in Asia, but still dangerous.

Overall though, as a software engineer/manager I found this book to be invaluable. The techniques are usable right away and really helped me convey the uncertainty I had in ways that I wasn't able to in the past. I think this should be required reading for anyone who works in the software industry.
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