When the estimates are too high

It will happen more often than not: after you finish estimating the work, you realize the estimates are higher than what everyone was expecting.

An estimate is an unbiased prediction of how long a project will take or cost, regardless of what is the specific target that you want to accomplish. You can't just reduce your estimates, so here are some suggestions to keep in mind whenever your estimates seem too high:

  • Don't reduce estimates that came directly from the developers. They tend to provide estimates that are too optimistic already, so further reducing them will not help your chances of success.

  • Don't cut the estimates down without discussing the consequences and a plan to mitigate them. You can negotiate (and reduce) commitments, but you can't negotiate estimates.

  • Try to use different estimation techniques to validate your previous results. If these estimates agree, trust them.

  • An excellent way to improve the accuracy of the estimates is using group reviews. Wideband Delphi is a structured group-estimation technique that produces very good results.

  • Look at the least important features, and negotiate them out of the scope. Find the ones with the most uncertainty and start a conversation about them. Keep notes of every assumption you make to reduce the estimate.

  • Always remember that if you torture the data long enough, it will confess to anything. Don't push it.

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