Software Estimation: Demystifying the Black Art

Microsoft Press
Steve McConnell  
Microsoft Press
Total pages
February 2006
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Software Estimation: Demystifying the Black Art
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Often referred to as the “black art” because of its complexity and uncertainty, software estimation is not as difficult or puzzling as people think. In fact, generating accurate estimates is straightforward—once you understand the art of creating them. In his highly anticipated book, acclaimed author Steve McConnell unravels the mystery to successful software estimation—distilling academic information and real-world experience into a practical guide for working software professionals. Instead of arcane treatises and rigid modeling techniques, this guide highlights a proven set of procedures, understandable formulas, and heuristics that individuals and development teams can apply to their projects to help achieve estimation proficiency.

Discover how to:

  • Estimate schedule and cost—or estimate the functionality that can be delivered within a given time frame
  • Avoid common software estimation mistakes
  • Learn estimation techniques for you, your team, and your organisation
  • Estimate specific project activities—including development, management, and defect correction
  • Apply estimation approaches to any type of project—small or large, agile or traditional
  • Navigate the shark-infested political waters that surround project estimates

Table of Contents

  • I. Critical Estimation Concepts
  • 1. What Is an “Estimate”?
  • 2. How Good an Estimator Are You?
  • 3. Value of Accurate Estimates
  • 4. Where Does Estimation Error Come From?
  • 5. Estimate Influences
  • II. Fundamental Estimation Techniques
  • 6. Introduction to Estimation Techniques
  • 7. Count, Compute, Judge
  • 8. Calibration and Historical Data
  • 9. Individual Expert Judgment
  • 10. Decomposition and Recomposition
  • 11. Estimation by Analogy
  • 12. Proxy-Based Estimates
  • 13. Expert Judgment in Groups
  • 14. Software Estimation Tools
  • 15. Use of Multiple Approaches
  • 17. Standardized Estimation Procedures
  • III. Specific Estimation Challenges
  • 18. Special Issues in Estimating Size
  • 19. Special Issues in Estimating Effort
  • 20. Special Issues in Estimating Schedule
  • 21. Estimating Planning Parameters
  • 22. Estimate Presentation Styles
  • 23. Politics, Negotiation, and Problem Solving


Steve McConnell is recognized as one of the premier authors and voices in the development community. He is Chief Software Engineer of Construx Software and was the lead developer of Construx Estimate and of SPC Estimate Professional, winner of Software Development magazine's Productivity Award. He is the author of several books, including Code Complete and Rapid Development, both honored with Software Development magazine's Jolt Award.