Software Development Time Estimation Technique

Nov 09, 2023 7 min read 407
Yana Trofimova Business Development Manager
Software Development Time Estimation Technique

Software development and its rapid implementation into the workflow is a very important process, the success of which will affect the business as a whole. That is why it is crucial to take it seriously and to plan everything in advance.

Accurate software development time estimation is an extremely vital aspect for both the developers and the customer. Almost always the time depends on the complexity of the project. But, it is very hard to say exactly how much time will be spent on a particular development (especially complex), because you should take into account many factors and possible overlaps.

Estimation of Software Development Time: Why Is it Important?

Time is a very valuable resource that is essential in the development process. So, bellow you will find some of the main reasons why estimate software development time is so vital:

You can create a clear plan of action

By estimating time costs in advance, you have the opportunity to start planning all the stages and phases of the project in detail. This will help to work on the project without unnecessary fuss and nerves, especially on the part of developers, as they will clearly understand what is required from them at what stage and what next steps should be taken in the process of development.

Of course, it is worth taking into account that all plans should be developed with adding extra time, as it may be useful in the course of solving unforeseen problems.

Aligning the expectations of the parties

By calculating and announcing the approximate timeframes of the project, a better understanding between the team and the client can be achieved. It is especially good to present the results of the estimates in the form of a visual presentation. Thus, the team will clearly know what period of time to rely on and then will not be in a hurry to fix the flaws of the project. At the same time, the client will understand how much time is needed for different processes and will wait calmly till the specified date.

Read also: Application Development Costs: How Much Does it Cost to Create an Application?

Effective resource management

Determining the approximate amount of time allocated for the project allows you to properly manage such things as human resources and finances. That is, you can make a plan showing who of the development team plays what role, how many working hours they have and how much money is budgeted for it. In addition, you may also adjust the size of the team during the work to complete the project before the deadline and not to pay too much for additional employees that you can do without.

Enables more accurate cost estimates

This paragraph immediately emerges from the previous one. Costs are almost one of the most important criteria the customer focuses on. So, when we know the approximate time laid down for the project, as well as its plan, then we, in fact, are able to say how many hours of work of different specialists will be needed for this. Then, this number is multiplied by their hourly rates. After that, everything is summed up and a certain additional amount of money is added. This sum will be a "safety cushion" in case, for example, a lot of bugs which will take time and money to fix are found.

Software Development Time Estimation Techniques

Methodology of expert evaluations

Aforementioned model of approximate establishment of time costs for project realization implies independent estimates of different experts. In general, such people use their personal methods, which are based on their practice. After that, the development team is presented with all the data in an anonymous format and the discussion within the group begins. Through communication, all participants come to a common consensus on the most likely scenario.



1. Selecting Experts

Identify experienced individuals with domain and technology expertise (e.g., a business analyst, software architect, designer).

2. Task Breakdown

Divide the project into smaller tasks (e.g., user stories, features) for estimation.

3. Expert Assessment

Experts independently review task descriptions, considering complexity, risks, and dependencies.

4. Time Estimation

Experts provide time estimates for each task (e.g., in hours or days).

5. Consolidation

Collect and analyze individual estimates to understand variations and trends.

6. Discussion and Consensus

Experts discuss estimates and work towards consensus to refine the estimates.

7. Documentation

Record the final estimates and the estimation process for future reference.

8. Validation

Periodically compare estimated times to actual task completion times for accuracy.

9. Risk Assessment

Identify potential risks and uncertainties associated with each task.

10. Regular Updates

Update estimates based on new information or changes in project scope or requirements.

Using of historical data

Most of the development teams have been working for many years and have accumulated quite enough experience. Therefore, they can use this historical data in relation to their current projects to understand as accurately as possible how much time it will take. The essence of this method is very simple – if a developer has a certain task in front of him and he has performed a similar one before, then based on this data he is able to determine how much time it can take. Also, as the project progresses, it is possible to compare past and present experience in order to set more precise deadlines. 

Project decomposition

At the moment, this method is one of the most commonly used, as it can show figures that will be very close to the actual ones. To calculate the time spent on the entire work process, the project is broken down into the smallest possible tasks. Analyze each of these tasks in detail and then calculate how much time it can take. Such action should be done for all tasks, and after that the total time will be calculated. This is definitely not a quick method that requires complete immersion in the project scope, but it is one of the most accurate.

Calculations based on different scenarios

When project requirements are not yet fully detailed, or when there are many uncertainties about it, the multiple scenarios method is usually used. In this case, three scenarios are developed to show how long the work may take. The first scenario is optimistic, the second is pessimistic, and the third is the most likely to happen. The results of all these scenarios are added up and an arithmetic mean is calculated. In such a way, we get amount of time that may be needed to implement the project.

Easily determine your software development costs with our free tool: Software Development Cost Calculator.

Work breakdown structure

Instead of working on an entire project, this option involves dividing it into smaller projects. That is, you can, for example, divide a large annual project into 12 smaller pieces and present the results to the customer each month. Thus, it is possible to devote more time to each stage and if something is wrong to redo it at once. And among other things, this way you have an opportunity to get more accurate delivery dates.

As clear as possible estimation of time costs for one or another software development certainly gives a lot of advantages to both the customer and the development team. But, it is worth remembering that there are practically no precise methods of calculation, especially if you are working on a project where there are a lot of uncertainties. That is why you should not treat preliminary deadlines as something definite and something that will not change in any case. It is important to realize that quality and usability sometimes require a little more.

Read also: Cost Estimation for Mobile Application Development

Looking for a Software Development Estimation?

SDH company use well-balanced mix of these methodologis for the project estimation. In practice, it yields a 15% error in time and resource estimates. Our project cost calculation includes:

  • high-level backlog
  • functionality decomposition
  • technical research, choosing optimal solutions and project architecture
  • user roles and flow description
  • estimate in time and cost calculation
  • high-level release planning
  • recommended team composition.

Get a free estimation for your project from our team!

FAQ related to software development time estimation we recieve:

  • What is the estimated cost of developing the MVP? And full featured product?
  • What kind of team composition do you recommend? 
  • What is a timeline of the project?
  • Do we need a mobile app, a web app, or both?
  • Are there any specific server or infrastructure requirements we need to consider?
  • What privacy regulations or compliance standards (e.g., GDPR, HIPAA) do we need to adhere to?
  • Are there any third-party services or APIs we should integrate?

If you already understand that it's time to transform your business and implement innovative solutions that will positively affect its success – contact Software Development Hub.

SDH is a company that provides outsourcing services for project development of any scale. Our team is ready to provide you with the high-quality services that you will definitely be satisfied with. Already at the consultation we will be able to preliminarily assess your project, as well as roughly predict how much time it may take. So, if you want to start working with an experienced partner, then book a consultation right away!


Software Development Time Estimation


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