The Secret to Estimating

Jun 20, 2017
Nate Baker

What’s the secret

Here is the ONE WEIRD TRICK (ok it’s more of a process) to knowing how long it will takes to build a mobile app. Here are the steps:

  1. Gather relevant information at the beginning of a project.
  2. Divide the project into smaller chunks of work.
  3. Even smaller! (If your work items are too broad you’ll tend to underestimate)
  4. Make a best guess about how long each bit of work will take.
  5. Track your time while building the app.
  6. Check how close you are at the end of the project.
  7. Repeat steps 1-5 a hundred times.

It’s not really much a secret. It’s obvious that getting better at estimates is largely a function of putting in the hours. However the better you are at estimating your work, the smoother a project will go.

Why is it Important?

Accurately estimating how long a mobile app takes to build is key to a great working relationship.

If we tell you an app will take 2 hours and it takes 200 hours, you’ll be stressed. If we tell you it will take 200 hours and it takes 2 hours, you may be happy, but you’ll likely stop trusting us.

Great estimates build trust. If our estimates are close to reality, you can trust us to help steer what’s best for your company, not only for delivery date predictions but also for budgeting and business decisions.

Here’s an example. Say you want as many iPhones users as possible to be able to use your app, which means supporting a different number of devices, running older and newer operating systems. If we know it really will take another 10 hours to support those 5% of people on really old phones, we can provide the accurate data to make a business decision (are those 5% of people worth 10 hours of development time?).

With great information, you can make great decisions.

What are the pitfalls?

Becoming an Estimate Connoisseur takes time, but there are a few things always increase accuracy. Most of it comes down to communication.

Before becoming a software developer, I held the common stereotype that developers were holed up in a corner just cranking out code. This is true for periods of time, but you may be surprised how crucial communication is to a great app. Often there’s a direct correlation on a technical team between the quality of communication, and the code.

The same lesson rings true in the realm of estimating.

It all comes down to asking questions and listening well. For instance, an estimate based on assumptions is often inaccurate. If I assume a portion of work was already done when it wasn’t, or if a task will be very simple and it is much more detailed, there are usually some painful outcomes. A project may take more time or money than originally expected, or the scope of the project may have to be paired down.

Asking clarifying questions always makes sense for both you and us when an estimate is being put together.

 

What about my app?

The real question is how long will it take to build YOUR app? And how much money will it take?

That’s something we can figure out for you once we learn about the project. It all starts with a conversation about your idea. We’d love to prove that we’ve gotten pretty good at this.