How To Estimate The Time Required To Complete A Software Development Project

Written by Kevin Liew on 13 Nov 2019
128,667 Views • Miscellaneous

It can take as long as 12 months to complete a software development project. The length of time varies according to factors such as the requirements, design, planning, architecture, development, and, last but not least, software testing. Large-scale projects require a great deal of API programming, not to mention the integration of remediation of legacy systems. 

Small-scale projects, on the other hand, require fewer models and less quality assurance testing. Nevertheless, because of the competition in the industry, you cannot release a product like a mobile app to the market fast enough because it is necessary to take into account the end quality of the project. 

The Planning Fallacy: Why You Underestimate Task Time 

Being able to determine the time required to develop a given project is essential. Not only does the IT team have to predict the scale of efforts that should be put into the project but also keep clients and stakeholders informed. If you do not have enough experience, the margins of error can be significant. 


If the estimate is precise, you can plan delivery from one group to the other to the day, hour or minute. Unfortunately, errorless estimations are quite rare. Project leaders tend to underestimate software development. Common reasons for not reaching a precise estimate include but are not limited to: 

  • Use of new technologies
  • Unknowns
  • Need for bespoke features

The interpretation of an IT expert’s capacity is a subjective undertaking.  You must assess their ability to make the right decisions according to what the project needs. 

How to Pinpoint with Accuracy the Time and Effort Required 

Software development projects involve dynamic aspects, even if they are typically constrained to finite conditions. Regardless of size and budget, estimating the time it takes to complete a software development project is no easy thing. If you’d like to create a fairly accurate estimate, keep in mind the following: 

Understand the Functional Scope of The Project 

The functional scope designates the services that your IT team offers, which will be captured by the user after some time. Figure out what you want to achieve and what the reach of the product will be. Sometimes, it is useful to resolve a project into constituent parts so that the original function can be restructured. 

Attention should be paid to the fact that scope and requirements are not the same things. If you find these two terms, confusing, you are not the only one. Scope refers to that part of project planning that involves the establishment of a list of specific goals, deliverables, tasks, processes, costs, and deadlines. Requirements describe the user interactions that the software has to provide. 

Keep track of the functional scope of the project. Separate the things that are between the scope and those that are outside of the scope. You can update the situation as things change. Before commencing the discussion, make sure to have the list with you. 

Break Down the Project Phases and Tasks  

Perfectionism is a trait all too common as far as IT experts are concerned. Because the members of your team are human, perfection is not possible. Maybe not, but you cannot afford to adopt a so what mentality. Break down the project phases and tasks among various software developers. You will know exactly how the project will unfold. This will help you manage time, cost, changes, quality, risk, and similar problems. 

if you need to be reminded of the SDLC phases, here they are: 

  1. Requirement gathering and analysis
  2. Design
  3. Implementation of coding 
  4. Testing
  5. Deployment
  6. Maintenance 

When compiling estimates, you need clear information. It would be helpful to monitor employee hours. Track time for tasks and subtask. Manually adding data into an Excel timesheet requires a lot of time, which is why it is recommended to use software available online as an alternative. The flexible web-based program enables software developers to enter the time spent on various activities with a single click. 

Source : 

As for you, you can track numerical quantities, create bespoke rates, and convert the hours per day into man-days worked. The software allows you to measure the contribution of each member of the team and how much time it takes to complete an assigned task. You estimate the size of the tasks according to the hours taken by the software developers. After you break down the project and the tasks, it is imperative to designate a delivery date. 

Avoid Communication Overhead at All Costs 

Are you familiar with the phrase communication overhead? It is the proportion of time that you spend communicating with your IT team. If new members are added to work on the software development project, you must take the person aside and get them familiar with the codebase. This is just an example. 

The more people are on the team the more communication issues can arise. Too much time spent communicating can affect the outcome of the project negatively. Individuals are required to devote their full attention to what is going on, which in turn impedes their ability to stay productive. You could keep team sizes small and reasonable. However, if you are expected to finalise a large-scale project in a short amount of time, you need all the help you can get. 

Maintain communication to a minimum. Productive communication needs to prevail because of the complexity of the activities. Ensure the members of the IT team receive the message and they are willing to understand it. As the project leader, it is your responsibility to understand the needs of the group and do your best to satisfy them. 

To sum up, it is difficult if not impossible to determine the exact timeframe. Even if you kick off a project on time, there is no guarantee whatsoever that you will not get out of schedule. A small project can transform into a big project. When this happens, it costs double and takes more time than initially expected. 

Software development time estimates get better with intuition and more information, yet they are never perfect.

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