#NoEstimates: Why Time Estimation is Overrated in Software Development

As a software developer, I have often struggled with the task of time estimation. It’s a tricky business to predict how much time a task or project will take, and the consequences of getting it wrong can be significant. That’s why the #NoEstimates movement has gained traction in recent years. The idea is simple: instead of estimating, focus on breaking tasks into smaller chunks and delivering continuously.

The challenge of time estimation is not unique to software development. Having worked in the construction industry, I have observed similar issues. Predicting how much time it will take to build a house, for example, is a notoriously difficult task. Like software development, construction projects can be complex, and there are many variables at play that can impact the timeline. The traditional approach of estimating the overall timeline can be challenging to get right, and the consequences of getting it wrong can be significant.

The #NoEstimates approach challenges the traditional mindset of relying on estimates for planning and decision-making. According to statistics, precise estimation vs rough estimation had the same amount of estimation errors. Therefore, instead of striving for precise estimation, we should focus on dividing tasks into smaller chunks that can be delivered within a predictable timeframe. I believe that each task should be no more than 2-5 days of work, as this provides enough time to deliver meaningful progress while ensuring that the team can maintain a consistent pace.

One of the key insights of the #NoEstimates approach is that accuracy is not the same as precision. Management can be precise in their calculations and provide a detailed estimate, but that doesn’t guarantee that the work will be done within that estimate. There are too many variables at play in software development, and the only way to account for them is to work iteratively and focus on delivering small, manageable chunks of work.

Clear task descriptions and providing all the necessary data and access rights are even more important than having a precise time estimate. The primary goal is to minimize friction in the development process and ensure that the team can focus on delivering value to the customer. A precise estimate may give managers a better picture of the overall timeline, but it doesn’t help the team to work efficiently. By breaking down tasks into smaller chunks and providing clear instructions, the team can focus on getting things done rather than worrying about hitting a specific deadline.

In conclusion, #NoEstimates challenges the traditional approach to time estimation in software development. While estimates are necessary for managers to communicate with the end client, teams should focus on creating a development stream that flows no matter what. By dividing tasks into small, manageable chunks and providing clear instructions, teams can work more efficiently and deliver value to the customer continuously. The key is to focus on the work itself rather than worrying about hitting a specific deadline.


How To Estimate Software Development Time

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