How to estimate time for software development in the volatile market conditions

The complexity of software systems naturally increases the difficulty of their development life cycles. In addition, their size tends to grow with time, making it tough to predict how long it will take to create the necessary software.

The capacity of a software development company to accurately estimate time for software development and delivery is proportionate to its size. In other words, the calculation becomes less reliable as the project size increases. After all, estimates and subsequent progress monitoring are typically required for subtasks within bigger tasks. Therefore, developers have a hard time making accurate time and completion predictions for software projects. The development team failing to come in under budget and on schedule negatively impacts a project’s chances of success by 60%. 

This article will discuss how to estimate time for a software development, the challenges of estimating software development, the reasons developers have trouble with estimating, and the best practices for estimating software development.

Software Development Time Estimation-What is it?

Estimating how long it will take to finish a software development project or a particular task inside that project is what time estimation in software development is all about. Developers and project managers can create a realistic project plan, set realistic deadlines, and allocate resources effectively by breaking down the project into smaller components and estimating the effort required for each. In order to effectively manage customer expectations, coordinate team efforts, and guarantee on-time delivery of high-quality software, accurate time estimation is an essential factor. It’s useful for spotting problems ahead of time, managing projects more efficiently, and making the most of available resources at every stage of software development.

Why tracking software development time is essential?

Tracking software development is critical because it reveals hidden patterns in how resources are used and how productive a team is as a whole. Time tracking and analysis help teams locate delays, organize their workload, and make informed choices. It facilitates efficient project management, facilitates the meeting of deadlines, and permits more accurate estimation and planning for future projects. The development team and the stakeholders can all benefit from greater openness and better communication, as well as more precise billing, when time is tracked properly.

Estimating time for software development- How to do that?

So, how to estimate software development time? The following section presents widely used software development time estimation methods:

Predictions Based on Past Results

It is possible to keep accurate time by comparing historical information with current data. Your time estimation accuracy can be determined by subtracting the actual time spent on a task from your initial estimate. From there, you’ll draw trend lines on a graph using this information. With the chart and information in hand, you’ll be better able to predict how long it will take you to finish a project. You will also be able to spot outliers, which will let you conduct further research into the situation and discover what went wrong. The key to getting more value out of your time estimate data is to update your graph regularly. Once you have complied with hundreds of data points, you will be able to predict possible project deadlines even more precisely.

Task Analysis and Planning0

Projects can be broken down into more manageable chunks with the help of a Work Breakdown Structure (WBS). This way, the client can see that work is being done without having to wait for the entire project to wrap up at once. Since it is simpler to estimate the time required to complete a single work than it is to do so for an entire project consisting of several smaller activities, this method also allows for more accurate predictions.

The complexity of a nine-month project can be reduced to nine one-month tasks with the help of a WBS. In addition, it provides incentives for development teams to drop or rework only a subset of a project rather than the entire project as a whole.

Strategizing Poker

Software project estimation is a common area where members of a development team can have opposing views. Project management activities can be estimated with the use of a game called planning poker, which also goes by the names “scrum poker” and “pointing poker.” These estimates are more interesting and accurate than other methods because they are based on the input and consensus of the entire group.

When team members share their forecasts at the same time, they eliminate the risk of an anchoring bias. Additionally, it may bring to light misconceptions, missed specifics, or other viewpoints.

Bottom-Up Estimation

Bottom-Up Estimation is a way of estimating software development time that starts at the most basic level. This strategy divides the project into smaller components or tasks. Each task is then independently estimated for the time and work required to execute it. Once each task has been calculated, the times are added together to create an overall project estimate. The Bottom-Up technique can be quite accurate because it evaluates each work in depth.

Top-Down Estimation

The Top-Down Approach is another method for calculating approximate software development life cycle time estimation. Unlike the Bottom-Up approach, which jumps right into the details of a project, this one takes a high-level view from the beginning. The duration of the project is calculated by estimating how long it will take to complete each of the previously mentioned parts individually. In most cases, this technique is far quicker than the Bottom-Up approach. However, it may need more attention to detail tasks, which could reduce the reliability of the estimate.

Estimation Using Parameters

Parametric estimation is a statistical method used to predict how long a project will take. This method derives its estimation from past data and calculations. The project’s duration and budget are predicted based on the correlations between the various factors. This method’s precision is highly sensitive to the completeness and accuracy of the data it draws upon.

Size Comparison

Relative scaling, often known as Story Point Estimation, is a strategy commonly employed in Agile approaches. Estimating the time needed to complete a project based on how long it will take to complete its parts is called a “relative estimate.” The time needed to develop these features can be calculated using this relative sizing and the team’s known velocity (the amount of work they can finish in a given time).

 Wideband Delphi

One such consensus-based estimating strategy is the Wideband Delphi approach. In this method, a group of specialists makes separate estimates for the work at hand. Each expert provides an anonymous estimate. The panel then discusses these estimates, and the process is repeated as needed until a decision is made. To get a more precise estimate, this method encourages debate and refinement, capitalizing on the knowledge and experience of the whole group. However, this process might be lengthy since it calls for the participation and availability of numerous specialists.

Estimate time for software development- The Steps

Deliver Promises

Instead of providing a single estimate for the entire project, break it down into smaller chunks for each specific task. The time required to complete a task can be estimated with more precision when compared to similar tasks. In addition, it lets teams adjust prospective deadlines based on actual work done. Developers gain more flexibility and accurate estimates with sprint promises, and clients are kept satisfied with the consistent stream of deliverables.

Control Uncertainties and Probabilities

Probability is not a tool for making predictions. Instead, it serves as a method for estimating the impossible. That’s why it’s crucial for teams to always have backup strategies in place and allocate extra time to deal with uncertainties. In order to prepare for the unexpected without rushing things and running out of time, it is common practice to double an estimate.

Take all accounts into consideration 

In order to produce accurate and realistic predictions, a team should consider the following:

  1. Specifications: the more information a team knows on the goals and outcomes of a project, the more accurately they can estimate how long it will take to complete.
  2. Graphic Design: User interfaces that are visually complex and technically challenging can take longer to develop.
  3. Technology Stack: The term “technology stack” refers to the collection of tools and resources a team uses to complete a certain task.
  4. Expertise: Since senior developers can be capable of providing more accurate time estimates, it is best to base predictions on people rather than the team as a whole.

Everyone should be truthful with each other

If coworkers want more accurate time estimates, they should talk to one other about their thoughts and concerns. After all, everyone is different and will require different amounts of time to finish their tasks.

Development team members should be open and honest with one another and frequently interact with one another if they are to shift into a problem-solving mode rather than an integration phase.


Finally, make sure the estimated software development time is correct. After a broad assessment of the full scope of work intended to be presented for the next sprint, developers can assign tasks to make modifications to the estimate; daily meetings are held, and all difficulties and problems encountered by the team during the previous sprint can be reviewed during the review. This is how to estimate time for software development. We hope this guide will give you a sense of idea about keeping track of the development process.