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Effortless Estimation

Posted by admin on March 6, 2013

estimationProcess.jpg

“I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.”

– Douglas Adams

What if you could supply a clear and detailed testing estimate, and track ongoing actual experience to provide more accurate estimates in the future, all in about 15 minutes per project?

In the current world of light-weight Agile processes, the idea of having a structured estimation process for testing has become something of a transgression against good practice.  Any time spent counting function points, or calculating cycles is time not spent testing, but while testing software can be a frustratingly unpredictable process, the only way to improve your ability to quantify this effort is to start doing some type of estimation process and tracking it against your actual experience.

Being able to accurately predict the amount of time and resources needed for testing is essential in understanding the amount of risk being introduced into a product or project when a testing timeline becomes constrained.   It is too often that the testing phase is expected to compensate for delays in prior phases.  If you are able quantify your testing tasks more reliably though, you will be able to calculate what will not be accomplished in a constrained schedule.  Numbers always speak louder than words.

In order to accomplish this with a minimum amount of effort, I created a progressive estimation template in Excel.  This workbook uses a series of worksheets to present and estimate, track work in progress, and record actual experience.

The first tab of this uses a baseline estimate on a simple hierarchy of phases and tasks to create a fully developed estimate based on a 5 point scale of effort. 

Tab One Screen Shot 

Add in dependent dates, and the second tab will show a Gantt chart for the testing project. 

Tab Two Screen Shot

This chart also identifies resource constraints and dependencies as you add in actual dates and blocked days.  Copy each projects dates onto the 3rd tab to track multiple projects over a longer period of time and record historical experience. 

Tab Three Screen Shot 

The 4th tab serves as a Legend, where the rates and labels can be customized to fit most testing practices.  This worksheet also uses the data on the 3rd tab to revise your initial baseline based on normalized, actual experience.  The Phases and tasks labels, baseline hours, effort scale, and daily productive hours can all be changed on this tab to fit your existing process.  Detailed instructions are included in the workbook.

After the initial setup, each additional project should require no more than 15 minutes to establish an estimate and record actual experience.

Click here to download the Effortless Estimation template

Your comments, observations, or suggestions for improvement would be much appreciated.

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