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Software Estimation: Demystifying the Black Art

4.04  ·  Rating details ·  900 ratings  ·  52 reviews
Often referred to as the "black art" because of its complexity and uncertainty, software estimation is not as difficult or puzzling as people think. In fact, generating accurate estimates is straightforward--once you understand the art of creating them. In his highly anticipated book, acclaimed author Steve McConnell unravels the mystery to successful software estimation-- ...more
Paperback, 308 pages
Published February 22nd 2006 by Microsoft Press (first published January 1st 2006)
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Apr 19, 2013 rated it liked it
"Software Estimation - Demystifying the Black Art" is a boring book. I read it because I wanted to have tools to discuss the subject, and I think this books accomplishes that.

To me, the first and last chapters which dealt with conceptualizing the problem space in general were the most interesting. The bulk of the book consists of different techniques to actual estimation, which I suppose would open up by actually trying to apply the methods described.

Overall I found the book to be interesting, a
Ha Truong
Jan 31, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: technology
An excellent book on software estimation.

Not like other books that scare readers at the first glance with sophisticated math equations, this book naturally comes with the practical methods (what, how, why and caveats). It also provides plenty of tips and diagrams to depict the definitions and methodologies.

Besides, it states issues in reality and how to fix such as the estimation can be impacted by the executives or the marketers, the estimator should defend and make an appropriate commitment
Marco Bizzarri
Sep 30, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: agile
Very detailed discussion about software estimation process.
May 21, 2009 rated it it was amazing
"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 cat
Gustavo Leiva
Mar 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Great insights into estimation. Some of the highlights to call out in my opinion:
- Clear definitions and differentiation of: estimate, commitment, complexity assessment, schedule, confidence level, among others.
- The author brings up other topics that are usually forgotten when estimating a project, but definitely could impact it.
- The importance of being clear about the cone of uncertainty and how to use it when creating/communicating estimates and confidence levels.
- Clarity into when it could
Erika RS
Jul 08, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: owned, software, physical
Estimation is difficult in software and everywhere else. In this book, McConnell provides the reader with tools to improve their estimation skills. There are no silver bullets -- most of these techniques take work and practice -- but by breaking down the process of estimation McConnell takes it from a black art to something understandable.

The first part of the book covers fundamental concepts in estimation. The heart of the book is part two which discusses many different estimation techniques, p
Aug 24, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Another great book from Steve McConnell. Obviously, subject matter expertize and lots of historical data are key to good estimates, but this book is packed with real world examples and complete explanations when you don't have that. Highly recommended. ...more
Jun 10, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: tech-leads
Every software engineer should read at least the first ten chapters of this book. These are the most insightful chapters that talk about what estimation is for, what to be wary of, and some basic ways of estimating. The biggest, most broadly useful takeaways boil down to a few rules of thumb and a handful of equations, many of which are usefully collected in an Appendix.

The rest of the book is a broad survey of techniques, but many of them are likely only applicable in a big company that has a l
Maxim Chetruşca
Nov 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I would actually give this book 4.5 stars.

What I did not like:

- it's a bit old;
- too much publicity for the software estimation tool the author worked on.

What I did like:

+ it actually does its job - a list of gotchas, suggestions and rules of thumb which seem helpful. A seasoned developer will recognize most of the suggestions as thoughts which we all get at one point, then forget. Here you can find them all in one place;
+ really simple to read and easy-going;
+ no rocket science.
Steve Fenton
Oct 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing
McConnell is always well researched and this is no exception. This book covers pretty much everything to do with estimation, including dysfunctions and abuses. A great handbook for estimation.
Mar 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: ti2011
This is a basic book for any software craftsman, essential after the initial steps of writing code profesionally.
Peter Aronson
Aug 24, 2018 rated it really liked it
A solid, readable book on the various software estimation (time, effort, scope, cost, etc.), with a ton of useful definitions and rules of thumb and advice.
Michał Węgrzyn
Nov 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: leadership
This should be handed to everyone who works in software development as a must read. I plan to read it many times over next years.
Feb 01, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
old school book which does not really fit modern situation
Omar Trejo
Mar 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Simple presentation of potentially complex topics with a very methodological and useful approach.
Aug 12, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I read this as part of my job. As an IT Consultant I was asked to estimate several projects ranging from small (ca. 50 workdays) up to medium (ca. 300-400 workdays) and confirm estimates on big projects (1000+ workdays)
When you depend on accurate estimates for profitable projects (especially when you are not on time & material), this is the tool to turn to. The intro and the first chapters confirmed many of my previously experiences from ca. 15 years of software development (including many horri
May 18, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This book gives a great detail description of what it means to estimate applied to the software engineering context. It starts off by defining what an estimate is, common problems with estimates, and the cost of underestimating. It talks about estimation strategies and finally how to apply them and issues that may occur when apply them. At the very least for me it helps me think about estimation more and gives me some tools to use while creating them. I imagine I will be going back and referenci ...more
Khang Nguyen
Jan 19, 2016 rated it really liked it
You can't be disappointed at a work of Steve McConnell. The book provided a well-rounded look into estimation as a process and set of techniques. Though the procedures are more for medium-large project, ones for small projects can be easily derived. As stated in the foreword, the book is not meant to cover the science part of software estimate. However, as software has its firm root in math and estimation is an art with numbers, formulas are unavoidable. Readers are kind of forced to take the fo ...more
Mohammad Fouad
Mar 24, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
After you work for a while as a software developer or leader, you realize that almost every single estimate you make is off by a significant amount. This book is full of practical advice that you can apply in your next estimate.

but the most important take outs are:
1- you really don't understand estimates, and you make them wrong
2- you are not alone!

This book is very easy to ready. You could even take all the figures and images in this book, stick them on a paper and you got yourself a visual
Jan 18, 2009 rated it it was amazing
So I plan on re-reading this book and providing a much more detailed review, but the short answer is that I think about this book on a daily basis now. A lot of it falls in to the "so obviously correct that it shouldn't even need to be pointed out." But guess what? It had never been pointed out to me before.

Anyway, I'm super into this book. If you need to provide software estimates, I highly suggest you check it out.

Krishna Kumar
May 05, 2015 rated it it was amazing
A great introduction to software estimation techniques, this book is about both the art and science of estimation. Steve McConnell discusses the various methods to derive estimates and reduce the inherent unpredictability. The author tries to keep down the level of complexity when mentioning the different scientific estimation techniques in the industry. Finally, he elaborates on specific issues and challenges in estimation, including organizational pressures.
Alan Fay
Mar 17, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: owned, programming
I've started to work though the estimation techniques one by one, and starting to incorporate them into my work. Already, I've had success with the "t-shirt size" method to get better accuracy on our deadlines.

If Code Complete is McConnell's index, then this text is the chapter/volume on estimation. It's very thorough and McConnell is an excellent writer.
Oct 11, 2012 rated it liked it
Some nice hints and ideas are expressed along the book. The estimation approach though is old fashion. Too many of the exposed techniques are based on Lines of Code, and many formulas seem not very useful. It was the first book about estimation I've read, and it's been useful. I'm sure though that there are better books on this topic ...more
Jan 07, 2013 rated it really liked it
Solid book that gave me a lot of what I was looking for. A lot of the tips are based on historical data, which my company doesn't have, so they're not something I can implement right away. I guess I'll have to start collecting data now. The t-shirt sizing and the distinction McConnell makes between estimates, targets, and commitments are very useful. ...more
Jul 04, 2007 rated it really liked it
Software estimation is a difficult thing to get accurate unless a lot of work is done upfront to have a measure of how things typically go. This book provides the means to getting to that point and describes the cone of uncertainty as to how accurate in the lifecycle, estimation can be.
David Carley
Jan 21, 2008 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: anyone in an engineering discipline
For any project leader (in any engineering field, not just software) or individual contributor, this is an excellent survey of the topic that will set you down the path of thinking about estimation in the right way.
Alexander Stashenko
Sep 22, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Really good book for understanding project estimation. Describes many technics and points common problems. Combined with checklists it provides deep analysis of estimation approaches and its peculiarities.
Nov 07, 2013 rated it it was ok
This was an incredibly dry read, very little of which will probably stick with me, but I had to read it for work. I've always struggled with any book I "have to" read, but this one was even worse than normal. ...more
Jun 21, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: learnin-things
For being a book on Software Estimation, I found this book to be quite readable. It had some good points and interesting techniques to put in place. I feel like having read it will definitely help my estimates.
Jan 08, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I can definitely recommend this book to everyone who has any attitude to software development. I'd suggest it not just for one time reading but to keep this book as a handbook for doing the estimation. ...more
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40 likes · 3 comments
“The only way to reduce the variability in the estimate is to reduce the variability in the project.” 2 likes
“When executives ask for an “estimate,” they’re often asking for a commitment or for a plan to meet a target.” 1 likes
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