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COST ESTIMATION

INTRODUCTION

The ability to accurately estimate the time and/or cost taken for a project to come

in to its successful conclusion is a serious problem for software engineers. The use

of a repeatable, clearly defined and well understood software development process

has, in recent years, shown itself to be the most effective method of gaining useful

historical data that can be used for statistical estimation. In particular, the act of

sampling more frequently, coupled with the loosening of constraints between parts

of a project, has allowed more accurate estimation and more rapid development

times.

Popular methods for estimation in software engineering include:

Analysis Effort method

COCOMO

COSYSMO

Evidence-based Scheduling Refinement of typical agile estimating techniques

using minimal measurement and total time accounting.

Function Point Analysis

Parametric Estimating

PRICE Systems Founders of Commercial Parametric models that estimates the

scope, cost, effort and schedule for software projects.

Proxy-based estimating (PROBE) (from the Personal Software Process)

Program Evaluation and Review Technique (PERT)

SEER-SEM Parametric Estimation of Effort, Schedule, Cost, Risk. Mimimum

time and staffing concepts based on Brooks's law

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SLIM

The Planning Game (from Extreme Programming)

Weighted Micro Function Points (WMFP)

Wideband Delphi

The Use Case Points method (UCP)

The development of the IBM OS/360 operating system over 30 years ago was a

monumental undertaking. That effort spawned many technical innovations, now

widely copied. In spite of technical successes, the OS/360 was a management

failure. "The product was late, it took more memory than planned, the costs were

several times the estimate, and it did not perform well until several releases after

the first". Dr. Brooks published many of his lessons learned from managing this

project in the book "The Mythical Man-Month: Essays on Software Engineering".

The book remains one of the best-regarded texts on software project management.

Today, situations similar to the OS/360 remain all too familiar.

Methods

There are several techniques for cost estimation, but the 2 basic approaches are

top-down and bottom-up. In the top-down approach, cost is derived from a

business analysis of the major project components. In the bottom-up approach, cost

is derived by accumulating estimates from the people responsible for various

components.

The primary techniques for cost estimation are:

1. Ask an expert in the domain of interest

2. Analogy to other projects

3

3. "Price-to-Win" strategy

4. Resource availability

5. Parametric models

Overview of Terminology for Cost Estimating Techniques:

Terminology: Brief Definition:

Factor Technique

The factor technique is an extension of the unit

technique, in which one sums the product of

several quantities or components and adds these to

any components estimated directly

Indexes

An index is a dimensionless number used to

indicate how a cost has changed over time relative

to a base year.

Linear Regression

A statistical technique used to estimate the

relationship between two variables.

Parametric Cost

Estimating

The use of historical cost data and statistical

techniques to predict future costs

Power-sizing

Technique

A cost estimating technique that uses the

relationship between capacity and cost. It is

frequently used for estimating the cost of building

industrial plants and equipment.

Unit Technique

Cost estimating technique that involves using a per

unit factor that can be estimated effectively. Such

factors, when multiplied by the appropriate unit,

give a total estimate of cost savings, or revenue.

4

Techniques, methods, and tools for planning, estimating, and monitoring the cost,

budget, or schedule of a software project. Included in this discussion are Function

Point and Lines-of-Code cost estimation techniques.

Best Practices

Best Practices for Cost Estimation and related areas

Case Studies

Case Studies for Software Cost and Schedule Estimation

Education and Training

Courses, training products and other resources for learning about cost

estimation.

Experts

Researchers, educators and experts in cost estimation.

Literature

A collection of electronic and hardcopy articles, white papers, books,

conference proceedings, journals and technical reports on cost estimation.

Programs and Organizations

Groups, programs and organizations that focus on cost estimation.

Related Resources

Web sites related to cost estimation.

5

Service Providers/Consultants

Companies, organizations and individuals that provide services related to

cost estimation.

Standards, Policies, and Procedures

Standards, Policies, and Procedures for cost estimating.

Tools

Software tools, spreadsheets and utilities that support cost estimation.

Cost Estimating Techniques

Resources that describe or compare various techniques for performing cost

estimates such as parametric modeling, analogy estimating, and expert

judgment

Earned Value

Earned Value is a management technique used extensively in the

management of Software Intensive Systems that relates resource planning to

schedules and to technical cost and schedule requirements. All work is

planned, budgeted, and scheduled in time-phased increments constituting a

cost and schedule measurement baseline. See the DACS Gold Practice

"http://www.goldpractices.com/practices/tev/index.php" Track Earned

Value.

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Software Size Estimation and Measurement

This category includes tools and methods for estimating and measuring software

size, including function points, lines of code, and object points. Because of the

large amount of resources for function points, they compose a separate topic area

within software size estimation and measurement. The other topic area, Software

Sizing - General, contains information not unique to function points and either

addresses other sizing methods, such as lines of code or object points, or general

information about multiple sizing methods including function points.

Learn

"Cost does not scale linearly with size", is perhaps the most important principle in

estimation. Barry Boehm used a wide range of project data and came up the

following relationship of effort versus size:

effort = C x size

M

This is known as the Constructive Cost Model (COCOMO). C and M are always

greater than 1, but their exact values vary depending upon the organization and

type of project. Typical values for real-time projects utilizing very best practices

are: C=3.6, M=1.2. Poor software practices can push the value of M above 1.5. A

bit of plotting for various values of M should quickly reveal the value of utilizing

best practices! Other factors that can influence M are: application experience,

leadership capability, new environment and tools, requirements uncertainty,

software reuse.

7

One fall out of the COCOMO model is that it is more cost effective to partition a

project into several independent sub-projects - each with its own autonomous team.

This "cheats" the exponential term in the COCOMO model. Partition strategies

include domain analysis and partition by CPUs.

Cost estimation is an iterative process. Precisely predicting software cost on large

projects is an intractable problem - even within the most stable environments and

mature organizations. Thus, software estimation needs to be performed several

times as a project matures. Each rework of the estimate should be more accurate

because more information is known.

Software Development efforts estimation is the process of predicting the most

realistic use of effort required to develop or maintain software based on

incomplete, uncertain and/or noisy input. Effort estimates may be used as input to

project plans, iteration plans, budgets, investment analyses, pricing processes and

bidding rounds.

State-of-practice

Published surveys on estimation practice suggest that expert estimation is the

dominant strategy when estimating software development effort.

[1]

Typically, effort estimates are over-optimistic and there is a strong over-confidence

in their accuracy. The mean effort overrun seems to be about 30% and not

decreasing over time. For a review of effort estimation error surveys, see.

[2]

However, the measurement of estimation error is not unproblematic, see Assessing

and interpreting the accuracy of effort estimates. The strong over-confidence in the

accuracy of the effort estimates is illustrated by the finding that, on average, if a

software professional is 90% confident or “almost sure” to include the actual effort

8

in a minimum-maximum interval, the observed frequency of including the actual

effort is only 60-70%.

Currently the term “effort estimate” is used to denote as different concepts as most

likely use of effort (modal value), the effort that corresponds to a probability of

50% of not exceeding (median), the planned effort, the budgeted effort or the effort

used to propose a bid or price to the client. This is believed to be unfortunate,

because communication problems may occur and because the concepts serve

different goals .Software researchers and practitioners have been addressing the

problems of effort estimation for software development projects since at least the

1960s; see, e.g., work by Farr and Nelson.

Most of the research has focused on the construction of formal software effort

estimation models. The early models were typically based on regression analysis or

mathematically derived from theories from other domains. Since then a high

number of model building approaches have been evaluated, such as approaches

founded on case-based reasoning, classification and regression trees, simulation,

neural networks, Bayesian statistics, lexical analysis of requirement specifications,

genetic programming, linear programming, economic production models, soft

computing, fuzzy logic modeling, statistical bootstrapping, and combinations of

two or more of these models. The perhaps most common estimation products

today, e.g., the formal estimation models COCOMO and SLIM have their basis in

estimation research conducted in the 1970s and 1980s. The estimation approaches

based on functionality-based size measures, e.g., function points, is also based on

research conducted in the 1970s and 1980s, but are re-appearing with modified size

measures under different labels, such as “use case points” in the 1990s and

COSMIC in the 2000s.

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Estimation approaches

There are many ways of categorizing estimation approaches, see for example.

[9][10]

The top level categories are the following:

Expert estimation: The quantification step, i.e., the step where the estimate is

produced based on judgmental processes.

Formal estimation model: The quantification step is based on mechanical

processes, e.g., the use of a formula derived from historical data.

Combination-based estimation: The quantification step is based on a

judgmental or mechanical combination of estimates from different sources.

Selection of estimation approach

The evidence on differences in estimation accuracy of different estimation

approaches and models suggest that there is no “best approach” and that the

relative accuracy of one approach or model in comparison to another depends

strongly on the context. This implies that different organizations benefit from

different estimation approaches. Findings, summarized in, that may support the

selection of estimation approach based on the expected accuracy of an approach

include:

Expert estimation is on average at least as accurate as model-based effort

estimation. In particular, situations with unstable relationships and information

of high importance not included in the model may suggest use of expert

estimation. This assumes, of course, that experts with relevant experience are

available.

Formal estimation models not tailored to a particular organization’s own

context, may be very inaccurate. Use of own historical data is consequently

10

crucial if one cannot be sure that the estimation model’s core relationships (e.g.,

formula parameters) are based on similar project contexts.

Formal estimation models may be particularly useful in situations where the

model is tailored to the organization’s context (either through use of own

historical data or that the model is derived from similar projects and contexts),

and/or it is likely that the experts’ estimates will be subject to a strong degree of

wishful thinking.

The most robust finding, in many forecasting domains, is that combination of

estimates from independent sources, preferable applying different approaches, will

on average improve the estimation accuracy

In addition, other factors such as ease of understanding and communicating the

results of an approach, ease of use of an approach, cost of introduction of an

approach should be considered in a selection process.

Assessing and interpreting the accuracy of effort estimates

The most common measures of the average estimation accuracy is the MMRE

(Mean Magnitude of Relative Error), where MRE is defined as:

MRE = |actual effort − estimated effort| / |actual effort|

This measure has been criticized and there are several alternative measures, such as

more symmetric measures, Weighted Mean of Quartiles of relative errors (WMQ)

and Mean Variation from Estimate (MVFE). A high estimation error cannot

automatically be interpreted as an indicator of low estimation ability. Alternative,

competing or complementing, reasons include low cost control of project, high

complexity of development work, and more delivered functionality than originally

11

estimated. A framework for improved use and interpretation of estimation error

measurement is included in.

Psychological issues related to effort estimation

There are many psychological factors potentially explaining the strong tendency

towards over-optimistic effort estimates that need to be dealt with to increase

accuracy of effort estimates. These factors are essential even when using formal

estimation models, because much of the input to these models is judgment-based.

Factors that have been demonstrated to be important are: Wishful thinking,

anchoring, planning fallacy and cognitive dissonance. It's easy to estimate what

you know.

It's hard to estimate what you know you don't know.

It's very hard to estimate things that you don't know you don't know.

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CONCLUSION

The human factor is the dominant parameter in cost estimation. Cost can be

driven down substantially by utilizing quality analysts and programmers.

Based up his parametric studies of 63 projects at TRW, Boehm was able to

obtain a quantitative advantage for utilizing quality analysts and

programmers: having a very low skill level among analysts or programmers

will cost twice as much as having a very high skill level. If both analysts and

programmer have a very low skill level, costs can quadruple. (Hint: training

is good.)

Other factors that have a large cost impact are: required reliability, and

complexity. Stringent reliability requirements can double costs as can high

complexity. If both high complexity and reliability are required costs can

quadruple.

13

BIBLIOGRAPHY

www.google.co.in

www.misronet.com/estimating

www. thedacs.com

www.stellman-greene.com

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