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Our 3-Step Project Estimation Process For Effective Development

So, how long will it take to develop your software solution?

It is a question you must have asked your development partner at least once. And it is indeed, important for you to know how much time and money it will take to develop your custom solution.

Proper cost estimation in project management is the very soul of the development process. Everyone is aware of the importance of providing clear assessments to the clients. Both clients and development teams would agree that the benefits of this practice are many.

So if you are still wondering how long it will take to develop your software solution, read on. In the following paragraphs, we are about to discuss some crucial elements of project estimation, and our in-house process of project estimation, curated by the very best of our team.

1. Agile Vs Traditional: A War Of Estimates

Once, software developers did things more traditionally. The process started with the project manager mapping out the project plan, complete with all the tasks, dependencies, and assigned teammates. However, with the rise of the Agile development manifesto the software project estimation approach changed entirely.

Early project planning methods pinned down the scope of the project and let the development time and cost vary. Needless to say, this resulted in a flawed time and cost estimation for the project. And that’s why the estimating techniques for agile projects take the opposite approach. It pins down the time and cost of development within a set range and lets the scope of the project vary.

project estimation

Rather than starting with a “Complete” idea of the project, the agile process begins with high-level scoping. This way we can learn more about the project, clarify our doubts, understand the core features, functionalities needed. This understanding further helps us to streamline the development process & assign the right tech stack and experts.

Leaving the rigid and unchanging traditional estimation process behind, the modern method creates more room for success. Our agile methods for estimating project times and costs ensure that the assessment is done based on a concrete understanding of the project, and not simple assumptions. Additionally, this also provides the scope of the project to change and adapt to the changing business needs, promoting future growth for our clients.

2. Project Estimation For Software Development: A Game Of Benefits!

Starting the development process with a clear idea of how much to invest is not just beneficial to the clients, but to us as well. It is a solid base of knowledge helping us to assess the kind of effort and expertise the product development process needs to be successful.

project estimation benefits

Let’s go through the below list of benefits to comprehend how the proper process of cost estimation in project management benefits both the clients and the developers-

Bonus Read: What does it take to build the right product? Unravel the secrets with our exclusive piece!

A. It Increases Trust

Trust is important for any kind of relationship, especially if it is a business relationship.

Imagine dealing with a development partner that does not provide you with a clear budget and cost estimation of a project. They don’t tell you how long it might take to build the solution and leave you completely in the dark.

Sounds horrible, doesn’t it? Imagine not knowing a single thing about the very important development project that will change the face of business. Such an experience does not increase any kind of trust in the development agency. On the other hand, a clear idea on project estimation is sure to increase trust between clients and developers. And that’s why experienced web development agencies always ensure that a proper assessment process is integral to the development project.

B. Improves The Value Of The Project

ROI or return on investment determines the value of any software. How much return are you going to get from your investment in the development? And an inaccurate answer to this question will seriously diminish the value of the project.

Additionally, a successful development project also results in improved experience and a better reputation in the industry. This is why a reliable project estimation is beneficial for both the clients and the development agencies. For one side, it provides real value, and ROI. And for the other side, it offers meaningful experience, expertise, and an improved relationship with the clients.

C. Define And Meet Realistic Deadlines

Imagine launching a marketing campaign for your latest customer-facing software, only to realize that development will take more time. Not only do you have to change a lot of decisions you made, but it will also impact your reputation in the market.

A bona fide agile project estimation process enables development teams to understand the scope of the project and then set a realistic deadline. Starting with the initial analysis of the proposal, we begin scoping out the features, functionalities, user stories & tech stack before finally predicting a range of timelines. This kind of deadline is realistic and much easier to meet.

D. Encourages Faster Result

It is an established truth that reliable IT project cost estimation techniques make development faster. Following the agile methodology, the project requirements are broken down and prioritized for the sprint plan creation.

It is more feasible for the developers to build a meaningful product with a comprehensive sprint plan. They can focus on the essential elements of development first, and ensure that those elements work perfectly for the clients. This way we can deliver a successful product a lot faster,

E. Help Clients Make Better Business Decisions

Imagine going grocery shopping with a fixed budget for every product on your list. And then when you get there, you realize that the price of one essential product on the list has increased. To accommodate that, you now have to eliminate one of the other grocery items on the list. This can be easily done since we are only talking about groceries. But such decisions are not easy to make when it comes to your business.

You can’t get rid of a business process as easy as scratching off ketchup from the grocery list. Just because you have to get a custom software solution, or a website developed doesn’t mean you can let other aspects of the business suffer. And that’s why you require the proper project cost estimation and budgeting. This way you’ll know exactly how to allocate resources throughout the business, and make smart choices that do not hinder the business growth.

Bonus Read: MVP, MMP, or MDP? Or a full-scale product? Make the right decision with this insightful read!

3. A Straightforward Project Estimation: Unified’s Own Process

Knowing the time and cost range for the project’s development will streamline strategic business decision-making processes for you. Whether you are a start-up entrepreneur or an established businessman entering the tech world- knowing how much to invest and what to expect as ROI is the key to success. So how to estimate project cost and time? Here’s Unified Infotech’s very own process explained in brief for you.

A. Beginning With A Basic Estimation

Any cost and time estimation in project management provided without a clear idea of the project is irrelevant. However, the clients need a basic model before they begin a partnership with us. And that’s why our estimation process begins with a fundamental assessment of the initial proposal.

Based on the client’s initial requirement, our sales team consults with the development expert and provides clients with a base level time & cost estimation. This estimation is never too far from how much it will actually take to develop the solution. However, it is still an initial estimation based only on the basic idea of the project. There will be some changes to this estimate during the later stages.

Exclusive insight: This estimate is never the same for two projects. Based on various factors, such as specific requirements, project type, design expectations, core functionalities, and many others, the basic estimation varies widely. This is done to ensure that every product we develop is completely relevant to the clients, and is successful in fulfilling its goals.

B. Discovery & Planning: Solidifying The Estimation Base

With the client on board and the kick-off phase completed, we begin our discovery and planning phase. This phase is also when we validate all the project cost, time & effort estimation done so far.

project estimation

The basic estimate provided by the sales team is already assessed once during the high-level scope of the pre-kick-off process. It is based on the deliverables determined through the collaboration between the client and the team. Next up comes a more detailed estimation stage where we put the details of the deliverables on the discussion board. From there, our project managers measure the effort and hours necessary for development.

Here’s a breakdown of how the estimation process goes down during the discovery and planning process.

I. Understanding The Basic Objective

The purpose of this step is to understand the project well enough before moving in with the detailed analysis of the process. Additionally, it also enables us to complete the thorough E1 estimation that is a more precise version of the initial software project estimation plan.

During this, we aim to understand all the deliverables, validate the information we have till now, and clarify any additional doubts and questions. Once the high-level deliverables are clarified, we move on to the next step that is epic mapping.

II. User Story & Epic Mapping

Epic mapping and user stories are essential parts of our E1 estimation methodology. The epic is a larger component that we can break into smaller user stories. User Stories on the other hand are informal explanations of different features written from the point of view of the users.

As higher-level functionalities, epics contain multiple smaller user stories. For example- in the image below, the user goals each represent an epic. To achieve these goals, the users would need to perform the activities listed as user activities. However, each person would perform the same activity differently, as demonstrated in the image.

project estimation user story

The epic mapping essentially breaks down the deliverables into smaller units enabling the team to understand what components are needed to build the solution. Once it has been finalized by both the internal team members and the client, the project manager begins the E1 estimation of the effort/size of the process. This estimation is done based on the tech stack. The hours and story points decided in this phase are as per the company baseline, and the industry standards. The range of hours in the E1 estimate also includes buffer time that is important for the successful completion of the project in time.

Once the E1 phase is done, the project manager reviews the effort & cost estimation, and then sends it to the rest of the management team. Any differences between the initial estimate and the E1 estimates are documented and analyzed.

Exclusive insight: While creating a more detailed user story mapping, one of the major goals of the Business Analyst follows is to not let the details increase the estimate. However, in case the estimates increase due to the details, the Project manager must take care of the estimates accordingly.

C. Imbibing Accuracy With E2 Estimation

To be exact in estimating project management, we take a look back at the estimate once again during the pre-development & planning stage.

The E2 estimation reflects any changes made in the time and effort predicted within the previous estimates. During the pre-development process, our team aims to complete some basic tasks.

project estimation

The defined and finalized story point and team efficiency help determine the accurate range of development hours. This finalized software development project cost estimation is then verified by the assigned developers and TLs. Once it is approved by the internal team, the project release plan is sent to the clients.

The project release plan includes crucial information on the release of each spring and the amount of payment for them. We follow this estimation throughout the development with minimal to no deviation whatsoever.

Bonus Read: Wondering how to accelerate your business’s digital transformation process? The answer is Agile values!

4. Lastly, Some Best Practices To Keep In Mind

It is not always possible to be super organized during the development and project estimation process. Project scopes evolve, business requirement changes, markets turn 180 degrees on their head, and client preferences change as well. Amid all this chaos, the development agency you partner up with must follow a well-established set of project management estimation best practices. What are they, you wonder? Well, here’s a list-

A. Honesty/Clarity About The Figures

Honesty and clarity are the most important thing when it comes to project estimation. How else can we gain the trust of the clients?

Our estimates are based on concrete knowledge of the project, as well as the complete idea of all the requirements, such as tech stack, third-party components, and internal resources necessary. By providing an honest estimation to the clients, we enable them for future growth and build a longer-lasting relationship with them.

B. Setting Clear Assumptions

While it might be possible for the development teams in the movies to build an impossible amount of deliverables within a short amount of time, it is not the case for real-world developers. In real-life scenarios, client preferences change, markets change, and a lot of other things might delay or hamper the development process.

project estimation

And that’s why the second cost estimation best practice we follow is setting clear assumptions. We neither overestimate nor underestimate a project scope. Considering a proposal from a real-world perspective, we set a clear picture of how the development process will be like to the clients. This provides them with a clear idea of the investment amount, as well as the future ROI.

Bonus Read: Dive in and get trendy with these top software development trends of 2021

C. Consider All The Risks

Beginning a project without considering all the risks first is an act of hubris. Our software project estimation process includes detailed risk consideration and management planning. This plan ensures that in case of any challenges arising, we can mitigate it before it impacts the project or our clients negatively.

Despite The Estimation Challenges, We Always Aim To Rise To The Occasion!

Due to the multiple variables, it is not easy to pin down a project estimation that is 100% accurate. However, with a clear idea of the project, as well as utilizing our decade of experience, we can assess the projects well and provide meaningful insight into how many the clients would need to invest.

So, do you know how much YOU need to invest in your project? Why not give us a shout-out? We can provide you with an insight into how much it should really cost to build your website!

project estimation

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