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What can be considered a good effort estimate for a software project?

The effort required to complete a software project is a prime factor that is used to arrive at the price. A good effort estimate for a software project also helps create a realizable development plan and support realizable plan revisions. A good estimate is not the only factor that determines the success of the software project. Nevertheless, having a good estimate is surely a factor that has significant benefits.

Here are the characteristics of a good software project estimate:

  1. Based on a well defined and credible effort estimation technique.
  2. Detailed enough so that the coverage of the full scope of the project is verifiable and leads to no ambiguity.
  3. The validity, relevance and credibility of historical data used and expert judgment are maintained high.
  4. Assumptions are clearly mentioned and verified with the client. Tendency of assumptions not to hold true is evaluated - failures are either tackled as risks or added to the Terms and Conditions of the contract.
  5. Risks identified, their impact assessed, and incorporated into the estimate.
  6. Facilitates future revision without much burden.

Apart from the above, a good estimate needs to be accepted and supported by the development team, project manager and other stakeholders of both the development company and the client.