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Software Estimation: Demystifying the Black Art Paperback – Feb 22 2006
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About the Author
Steve McConnell is recognized as one of the premier authors and voices in the development community. He is Chief Software Engineer of Construx Software and was the lead developer of Construx Estimate and of SPC Estimate Professional, winner of Software Development magazine's Productivity Award. He is the author of several books, including Code Complete and Rapid Development, both honored with Software Development magazine's Jolt Award.
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Top Customer Reviews
I highly recommend it.
The book arrived in perfect condition - even with that lovely "new book smell" :)
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His definition of the purpose of software estimation is important: "The primary purpose of software estimation is not to predict a project's outcome; it is to determine whether a project's targets are realistic enough to allow the project to be controlled to meet them."
From this premise, the author continues to prove that software estimation is about determining if you can control a project to bring it in reasonably close to the organization's targets. In addition to this, Mr. McConnell's arguments for overestimation being better than underestimation are rather good and have convinced me to continue using my risk time and budget items that I've been using and recommending to others.
In chapter 4, the author identifies four main sources of project estimation errors:
-Inaccurate information about the project being estimated
-Inaccurate information about the capabilities of the organization that will perform the project
-Too much chaos in the project to support accurate estimation (that is, trying to estimate a moving target)
-Inaccuracies arising from the estimation process itself
That last one presents the need for me to give a little more information. The author suggests that bias and subjectivity of the estimator cause major estimation errors in the estimation process. This is proven through exercise case studies of time estimation in training classes. The author found that the more "control knobs" (impacting factors considered when estimating the project) used in the estimation process the greater the probability of variance in the estimates. He attributes this to bias and estimator subjectivity and it makes a lot of sense.
In the end, this book will make you a better estimator and project manager and I highly recommend it.
Tom Carpenter, Author: Wireless# Certification Official Study Guide, CWSP Certification Official Study Guide, Project Management for the IT Pro, and Foundations of Effectiveness
CRITICAL ESTIMATION CONCEPTS
1 What is an "estimate"? 3
2 How good an estimator are you? 15
3 Value of accurate estimates 21
4 Where does estimation error come from? 33
5 Estimate influences 55
FUNDAMENTAL ESTIMATION TECHNIQUES
6 Introduction to estimation techniques 77
7 Count, compute, judge 83
8 Calibration and historical data 91
9 Individual expert judgment 105
10 Decomposition and recomposition 113
11 Estimation by analogy 127
12 Proxy-based estimates 135
13 Expert judgment in groups 149
14 Software estimation tools 157
15 Use of multiple approaches 165
16 Flow of software estimates on a well-estimated project 171
SPECIFIC ESTIMATION CHALLENGES
17 Standardized estimation procedures 181
18 Special issues in estimating size 197
19 Special issues in estimating effort 207
20 Special issues in estimating schedule 221
21 Estimating planning parameters 233
22 Estimate presentation styles 249
23 Politics, negotiation, and problem solving 259
A Estimation Sanity Check 271
B Answers to Chapter 2 Quiz, "How Good an Estimator Are You?" 273
C Software Estimation Tips 275
The book really does demystify estimating. It does a good job in Part 1 (5 chapters) of explaining crtical estimation concepts - very important for the neophyte at more formal estimating. Part 2 (12 chapters) covers a range of "Fundamental Estimation Techniques" and does it really well. There's enough information to get you started without being overwhelming
Part 3 (Specific Estimation Challenges - 6 chapters) covers challenges you will face with your estimating and presents useful practical approaches to these. All in all, it's a very useful and practical reference book for all those involved in estimating and presented at a level that the beginner can absorb and use practically. It doesn't overwhelm with detail on any one technique, it's more an introduction to the field, but an introduction that will get you started successfully and form a basis from which you can specialize further.
Steve McConnell's a well-know author with a number of useful books published previously - "Rapid Development" and "Code Complete" in particular. He's gpt experience in the field and he writes well, the books coherent, logically structured and it won't (unlike so many technical books) put you to sleep.
Steve McConnell is an essential author in regards to software development issues, and this book delivers on its subtitle: "Demystifying the Black Art", showing the main aspects involved in software estimation and how it is possible to produce reasonably accurate estimates using techniques based on things like group work, personal experience, expert judgement, past history and a lot of common sense. Chapter Four ("Where Does Estimation Error Come From"), with its description of the "Cone of Uncertainty", is a must-read for those who want to understand how good an estimate can be, and where we make the most common errors so we can avoid them.
The book doesn't delve deep into any specific technique, what makes it more useful and easier to read, since some techniques are so complex that it takes hundreds of pages to describe them well. I believe it will become another classic, like "Rapid Development" and "Code Complete"!
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