On Effort Estimation in Software Projects
Vesterinen, Petri (2000)
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Acta Universitatis LappeenrantaensisURN:ISSN:1456-4491
Software engineering is criticized as not being engineering or 'well-developed' science at all. Software engineers seem not to know exactly how long their projects will last, what they will cost, and will the software work properly after release. Measurements have to be taken in software projects to improve this situation. It is of limited use to only collect metrics afterwards. The values of the relevant metrics have to be predicted, too. The predictions (i.e. estimates) form the basis for proper project management. One of the most painful problems in software projects is effort estimation. It has a clear and central effect on other project attributes like cost and schedule, and to product attributes like size and quality. Effort estimation can be used for several purposes. In this thesis only the effort estimation in software projects for project management purposes is discussed. There is a short introduction to the measurement issues, and some metrics relevantin estimation context are presented. Effort estimation methods are covered quite broadly. The main new contribution in this thesis is the new estimation model that has been created. It takes use of the basic concepts of Function Point Analysis, but avoids the problems and pitfalls found in the method. It is relativelyeasy to use and learn. Effort estimation accuracy has significantly improved after taking this model into use. A major innovation related to the new estimationmodel is the identified need for hierarchical software size measurement. The author of this thesis has developed a three level solution for the estimation model. All currently used size metrics are static in nature, but this new proposed metric is dynamic. It takes use of the increased understanding of the nature of the work as specification and design work proceeds. It thus 'grows up' along with software projects. The effort estimation model development is not possible without gathering and analyzing history data. However, there are many problems with data in software engineering. A major roadblock is the amount and quality of data available. This thesis shows some useful techniques that have been successful in gathering and analyzing the data needed. An estimation process is needed to ensure that methods are used in a proper way, estimates are stored, reported and analyzed properly, and they are used for project management activities. A higher mechanism called measurement framework is also introduced shortly. The purpose of the framework is to define and maintain a measurement or estimationprocess. Without a proper framework, the estimation capability of an organization declines. It requires effort even to maintain an achieved level of estimationaccuracy. Estimation results in several successive releases are analyzed. It isclearly seen that the new estimation model works and the estimation improvementactions have been successful. The calibration of the hierarchical model is a critical activity. An example is shown to shed more light on the calibration and the model itself. There are also remarks about the sensitivity of the model. Finally, an example of usage is shown.
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