Top Tips and Techniques for Estimating Software Development Time


Every customer wants to have an estimate of the financial and software development time right from the start. Thus, the client can decide on the financial implication and the completion time of a planned project. Likewise, the size or simplicity of the project time estimating software is one of the critical aspects.

The software project estimate often exceeds the time estimate, resulting in an expanded budget, missed market opportunities, and penalties due to the service level agreement. However, such results are avoidable, but project managers must have a structured approach to software time estimation to avoid it.

Nevertheless, here we share some of the techniques that help to better manage software development time estimation, so that you give the right software development life cycle time estimation to your customers.

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

Below are some software development time estimating techniques that will help you accurately estimate labor 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 associated with this software development, as it can strongly affect the duration. Similarly, it is recommended to divide the projects into three parts, namely:

Already known

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

What can we know

A software project whose heart is predictable but which also has specific requirements. For example, developing a customer portal but also integrating an ERP. Therefore, small risks are likely at the time of integration.


Suppose there is a software development project involving a specific technology or innovation and uncertainty in business requirements such as software development on Agile techniques. In this case, these software projects have higher risks. Likewise, there cannot be an exact time estimate either.

Therefore, determining the complexity of the software project helps the business tremendously as you can defend the time that should be spent on the project and the level of risk that will be involved.

Give a general estimate

Before making a detailed software project estimate, your client may want to know a rough estimate, to form an expectation. Now, once you have identified the complexity of the software, it is recommended that you make a rough estimate based on your previous software development experience and let your client know. For example, you can give a rough idea that it will take two five-person developer teams about six months to complete the project.

Estimate the scope of work

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

Traditional practices

Traditional practices have underlying requirements that do not change so quickly. From now on, it is recommended to break down the requirements into small tasks that are easy to estimate. 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 the time estimation of each task using the two methods mentioned below:

Broadband Delphi

Wideband Delphi is an estimation method that uses consensus-based techniques to estimate tasks. Likewise, he compares results and raises or negotiates each task-related concern.


This is a data-driven estimate based on similar activities from your previous projects. So, for example, if you go through the estimate and the actual time spent on previous projects does not coincide, you will be able to know which activities are the most risky according to the schedule. Now you can devote more management time and effort to this task.

To note:

The precise time required for development is sufficient for small projects. And, for larger Waterfall projects, it is recommended to go from the minimum to the maximum amount of time needed for each task, for example, WBS (Work Breakdown Structure). This way, you’ll be able to ensure that issues don’t change the development flow of your project.

Agile methods

In this method, the scope of work changes once a change occurs in the requirement. Likewise, the workload is based on the value of the end users. This means that the more value a feature offers, the faster it will be developed. Similarly, scheduled tasks are displayed in the backlog based on priority.

Additionally, it is recommended that estimating effort rather than time is best when it comes to Agile projects. And you can also indicate the effort consumption of the units for the user. In addition, it is recommended:

  • You start by estimating the complexity of a sample. For example, you log in through a web page. And give critical points to your team. So everyone can use it as a reference to estimate the task.
  • It would be best for you to go through the backlog so that project team members can estimate the complexity of each task. So you can discuss it within the team accordingly.

Added risk buffer

You should add an overall 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 ignore issues such as integration issues and software failure that affect users.
  • Conflicts among team members reduce productivity.
  • The unpredictability of new technologies such as a third-party API that the customer seeks to use.

Make enough space for time-consuming tasks

Always allow about 20% of a project’s time for time-consuming things like team meetings, productivity dips, communication gaps, etc.

For example, you can use the formula below:

The entire project has a task time estimate of 8200 hours in total. Below you can:

8200 + 8200 * 0.25 + 8200 * 0.20 = 11890 Total number of hours needed.

Parametric estimation

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

  • First, it tries to recognize development factors such as functional and non-functional requirements of the business, the overall complexity of the project and its associated technology.
  • Obtain information about the required task to be completed based on similar past projects, then relate it to the total number of units applicable to a current project.
  • The cost is estimated based on the empirical relationship between the total number of project tasks and the factors involved, and then the precision is used.

Three-point estimate

This is another software time estimation in which three estimation ranges from three different data points are provided. The three points are namely the best scenario, the probable scenario and the worst 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 one of the simple yet effective methods of software development and cost estimation.

Bottom-up estimation

In the bottom-up estimation technique, the software project is divided into several tasks and sub-tasks, which can be managed and tackled easily. Now it becomes easier to manage software development time estimation. Similarly, the task estimate should be separated and the overall bottom-up total should be calculated again for the final estimate.

Although the estimate takes longer, it also gives a more accurate estimate by considering each component in detail.

Here’s Why Estimating Software Development Time Matters

Often people confuse the software time estimate with the funding amount. It is a bit similar but different from each other. For example, software development time estimation involves the time required to complete the software project. Likewise, it becomes budget later once the owner of the software project approves it. And, after this approval, funding is allocated.

In addition, the estimate is useful for the production and management of the software project. It helps in calculating the resources, efforts, costs and time required to complete the software and complete the project.

And as a customer, you should know that the software time estimate has nothing to do with the final cost of the software project, but just gives a basic idea about it. And the main intention behind software development life cycle time estimation is to inform the client about the budget and stay prepared about it.

Additionally, the standard software development time estimate is transparent and is usually provided in the manner mentioned below:

  • Tasks – Details of what the software development team will do.
  • Resources – Number of experts and human effort required.
  • Third Party Service – The software vendor is not directly accessible if an additional service is involved.
  • Duration – Total number of hours or days required to complete the software project.
  • Rate – The ratio of the project cost over time, accepted currency and if there is a discount available.

Benefits of Time Estimating Software

Below are some of the benefits you can expect when estimating software project completion:

  • Allows to fail early as it gives enough time to adjust, fix and implement features.
  • It believes to help manage any uncertainty. So, for example, you can quickly find out what you are about to do next week and what needs to be done in the next quarter.
  • Helps the software development team to do better planning. For example, when planning within the group, each task is divided according to the expertise of the software developer.
  • An accurate estimate helps you achieve a smoother project execution.


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

Likewise, at Positiwise, we accept software development projects. Now, if you are already a software development company and have a project for which you need additional manpower or want to outsource, you can check with us about the same.


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