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Software Estimation: Demystifying the Black Art by Steve McConnell

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Chapter 4. Where Does Estimation Error Come From?

There’s no point in being exact about something if you don’t even know what you’re talking about.

John von Neumann

A University of Washington Computer Science Department project was in serious estimation trouble. The project was months late and $20.5 million over budget. The causes ranged from design problems and miscommunications to last-minute changes and numerous errors. The university argued that the plans for the project weren’t adequate. But this wasn’t an ordinary software project. In fact, it wasn’t a software project at all; it was the creation of the university’s new Computer Science and Engineering Building (Sanchez 1998).

Software estimation presents challenges because estimation itself ...

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