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Software Development Estimation is Hard

Andy Leonard makes a point:

I recently blogged about punching developers in the brain when a software deliverable deadline is slipping. The title of the post is The Question Unasked. In this post, I would like to address software development estimation.

In the past, I have stated “Either all software developers are pathological liars or software development is inherently inestimable.”

Read on for Andy’s take. For mine, the overly short version is that incentives are set up for software estimation to fail due to perverse incentives and a lack of requirements. Ask the question, “How long will it take to build a skyscraper?” and you might get some answer, but it certainly won’t be the answer to the pertinent question, “How long will it take to build this skyscraper?” That’s because we haven’t talked at all about location, building plans, blueprints, regulatory requirements, financing, or any of the hundreds of other things which organizations talk about and do before they start slapping mortar on bricks. With software development, we’re expected to wing it and solve all of those sorts of problems along the way. Making it even better, more often than not, the skyscraper “pivots” to being a suspension bridge.