Top Software Development Time Estimation Tips & Techniques

Top Software Development Time Estimation Tips & Techniques

Every customer wants to have an estimate of financial and software development time from the beginning. Thus, the client can decide the financial involvement and the time period to complete a planned project. Also, how small or simple the software time estimation project can be is one of the critical aspects.

Estimating the software project often exceeds the estimated time, resulting in a larger budget, missed market opportunities, and penalties due to the service level agreement. However, these results are avoidable, but project managers should have a structured approach to estimating software time to avoid this.

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However, here are some of the techniques that help you better manage your software development time estimation so that you can provide the right software development lifecycle estimate to your customers.

Here are some tips and techniques for calculating the hours of a software project

Here are some software development time estimation techniques that will help you accurately estimate the working hours for a software project.

Clearly define the complexity of your project

Take the complexity of your software project seriously and understand the level of risk involved in this software development, as it can greatly affect its duration. It is also recommended to divide the projects into three parts, namely:

Already Known

Software development with specific foreseeable requirements, such as a major customer portal for a small business. From now on, the estimate will be predictable and accurate, while the risk involved will be the lowest.

What can be known

A software project with its predictable core but with specific requirements as well. For example, developing a customer portal but also integrating ERP. Therefore, small risks are likely at the time of integration.


Suppose there is a software development project that involves specific technology or innovation and uncertainty in business requirements, such as software development with agile techniques. In this case, these software projects are more risky. Similarly, there can be no exact estimate of time.

Therefore, figuring out the complexity of the software project helps the company tremendously, as you can defend how much time you have to devote to the project and how much risk there will be.

Making general estimate

Before making a detailed estimate of the software project, your client may want to know a rough estimate to form an expectation. From now on, once you’ve identified the complexity of the software, we recommend that you make a rough estimate based on your previous software development experience and that your client knows about it. For example, you can get a rough idea that two teams of developers with five people will take about six months to complete the project.

Estimation of the scope of work

For a detailed estimate of the software project, it is recommended that you create the scope of work that shows the exact software requirement and then evaluate each requirement. Also, make sure that the software development techniques you use in your project.

Traditional practices

Traditional practices involve underlying requirements that do not change as quickly. From now on, it is recommended to break down the requirements into small, easy-to-love tasks. For example, using Work Breakdown Structure, a tree structure that shows you the software development phase related to each task.

Once you have completed all the processes, you can start estimating the time for each task using the two methods listed below:

Broadband Delphi

Broadband Delphi is an estimation method that uses consensus-based techniques to estimate tasks. It also compares the results and raises or negotiates each task-related concern.


It is the data-based estimate based on similar activities from your previous projects. So, for example, if you go through the estimation and the actual time spent on previous projects does not match, you will be able to know which activities are more risky according to the chronology. From now on, you can devote more time and management effort to this task.


The precise time required for development is sufficient for smaller projects. And, for the most important Waterfall projects, it is recommended to go at least to the maximum time required for each task, for example, WBS (Work Breakdown Structure). This will ensure that problems do not disrupt the flow of your project.

Agile methods

In this method, the scope of the work changes once any change in the requirement occurs. Likewise, the workload is based on the value of the end users. It means that the more value a function offers, the sooner it will develop. Also, the planned tasks are displayed in the backlog according to the priority.

In addition, it is recommended that it be better to estimate efforts rather than time when it comes to agile projects. And the effort consumption of the units for the user can also be noted. In addition, it is recommended:

  • Start by estimating the complexity of a sample. For example, you are signing in through a webpage. And give your team critical points. Therefore, everyone can use it as a reference to estimate the task.
  • It would be best to review the delay so that project team members can estimate the complexity of each task. Therefore, you can discuss it within the team accordingly.

Add a risk buffer

You should add a global risk buffer between 5 and 25% of the overall project depending on the complexity of the project based on common risk factors such as:

  • You cannot overlook issues such as integration issues and software failures that affect users.
  • Conflicts within team members reduce productivity.
  • The unpredictability of newer technology, such as a third-party API that the customer wants to use.

Make enough space for time-consuming tasks

You always have about 20% of the time of a project for those who eat time, such as team meetings, productivity drops, communication gaps, and so on.

For example, you can use the following formula:

The overall project has an estimated work time of 8200 hours in total. From now on you can:

8200 + 8200 * 0.25 + 8200 * 0.20 = 11890 Total hours required.

Parametric estimation

This method is quite similar to the analogy, but offers more accuracy. It involves statistical or mathematical steps such as:

  • First, it tries to recognize development factors such as the functional and non-functional requirements of the company, the overall complexity of the project, and the associated technology.
  • Obtain information about the task required to perform according to similar previous projects and then relate it to the total number of units applicable to an ongoing project.
  • The cost is estimated based on the empirical relationship between the total number of project tasks and the factors involved, and then accuracy is used.

Three-point estimate

It is another software time estimate where three estimation intervals are provided from three different data points. The three points are the best scenario, the probable scenario, and the worst case scenario. And the final estimate is the average of the estimates.

In addition, this three-point estimate has the advantage of reducing the chances of an inflated estimate. It is also among the simplest but most effective methods of software development and cost estimation.

Bottom-up estimate

In the bottom-up estimation technique, the software project is divided into several tasks and subtasks, which can be easily managed and addressed. From now on, it is easier to manage the estimation of software development time. Similarly, the task estimate should be separated and the total bottom-up total should be recalculated for the final estimate.

While estimating requires more time, it also provides a more accurate estimate considering each component in detail.

This is why estimating software development time is important

Many times people confuse the estimation of software time with the amount of funding. It’s a bit similar but they vary from each other. For example, estimating software development time involves the time required to complete the software project. It is also budgeted after it is approved by the software project owner. And, after that approval, funding is allocated.

In addition, the estimate is useful for the production and management of the software project. It helps to calculate the resources, efforts, cost and time required to complete the software and deliver the project successfully.

And as a customer, you should know that estimating the time of the software has nothing to do with the final cost of the software project, but only gives a basic idea about it. And the main intention behind estimating the time of the software development lifecycle is for the client to know the budget and be prepared.

In addition, the standard software development time estimate is transparent and is usually provided as follows:

  • Tasks: Details of what the software development team will do.
  • Resources – Number of experts and human effort required.
  • Third-party service: The software provider cannot be accessed directly if there is an additional service.
  • Duration: Total hours or days required to complete the software project.
  • Rate: the relationship between the cost of the project and the time, the accepted currency and if there is any discount available.

Benefits of Software Time Estimation

Here are some benefits you can expect from estimating the completion of your software project:

  • It allows to fail from the beginning, as it gives enough time to adjust, correct and implement functions.
  • It is calculated to help you manage any uncertainty. So, for example, you can quickly find out what you are about to do next week and what to do next quarter.
  • Helps your software development team do better planning. For example, in group planning, each task is divided according to the experience of the software developer.
  • Accurate estimation helps you get a smoother execution of the project.


However, estimating the time of the software should not interfere with other business things, and you are expected to rely on business needs most of the time. However, if there is a lucrative time-limited market opportunity, you can use some of the time-estimating software techniques mentioned here.

We also accept software development projects at Positiwise. From now on, if you are already a software development company and have a project for which you need additional labor or want to outsource, you can consult with us.

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