How to Estimate a Project: DA-14 Approach

At DA-14 Software Development, we cooperate with clients from all over the world. Initially, every customer is provided with the project estimate to shed light on the work scope, the required number of resources, duration, cost, and other essential elements of a successful client case. In this article, we'll talk about DA-14 project estimation techniques and their benefits for clients.  

What is project estimation?

Our project manager, Anastasia, explains: “Accurate estimate is the basis of a smart project planning, but at the same time it is one of the most challenging phases. Following time-proven methodologies, we make it possible to draw up more accurate estimates and so deliver quality products on time and within the budget. Modern project management tools and our expertise offer all the necessary facilities for a successful completion.”

The DA-14 approach to project estimation

Depending on the request, our team offers two types of project estimates: rough and detailed. To make it brief, the rough estimate includes technology stack, team's line-up, deadlines and approximate project cost. On the other hand, the detailed estimate can serve as a ready-to-go work schedule for your team. Now let's delve into the specifics of project estimation process for both cases.

Project estimate in web application development

Related article: Seven Reasons to Hire a Dedicated Development Team

#1 Rough Estimate

This technique is mainly employed at early stages of a project when the very limited specification is available. Its initial benefits are fast results and lower cost, thuswise, it doesn't guarantee reliable figures.

For this type of estimate, we rely on analogous (also known as comparative or top-down) estimating. To provide our clients with the ballpark within one-two business days, we divide the whole project into smaller units and note down the appropriate number of hours for each separate unit. Additionally, we consider a certain permissible tolerance for code refactoring, bug fixing, unforeseen tasks, etc.   

Project cost estimation is done by comparing it with related projects delivered by our company. Sometimes projects include new features that we haven't developed yet, thus we adopt a comprehensive approach, employing expert judgment method.

Expert judgment is one of the most common IT project estimation techniques. We involve an expert or group of experts with vast hands-on experience in estimating web app development projects. Moreover, we always try to engage those experts, who will actually work on this particular project, ensuring a better understanding of the project structure, feature implementation, and deadline compliance. 

Rough project estimate pros and cons

#2 Detailed Estimate

To give our client a detailed quote on the project we bring in the necessary talents who will be also involved in further application development.  Such approach ensures greater dedication to the product, better accuracy and, in the end, higher quality.

Dmitriy Sushko, CEO and co-founder of DA-14: “We want developers to be deeply involved in the software development process, contribute to the project and offer qualitative service. Clients often approach to us on the recommendation of current or former customers, and we are proud of that.”

To reduce the risks, uncertainties, and biases we employ three-point estimating or PERT (Program Evaluation and Review Technique). Such method requires documentation and wireframes/designs to be available for a project manager to make a list of estimable tasks. How to estimate a project according to PERT? Rather than making one project time estimation, project manager and experts give three assessments, following these requirements:

  • a – the optimistic time. It is the best-case scenario for delivering the project.
  • b – the most probable time. It is the most likely scenario for delivering the project.
  • c – the worst case scenario for delivering the project.

To calculate the estimates for every task, we continue with one of the next formulas:

The simplest one is:

Task Estimate = (a + b + c) / 3

A more precise formula comes with a stronger emphasis on the most probable time assessment:

Task Estimate = (a + 4b + c) / 6

To get the final estimate we sum up all the task estimates. Consequently, a client is provided with a full estimate including a detailed WBS with timeframes for each task, recommendations on the web app development process, additional questions if there are any, and major risks that can affect the project.

Related article: Time-and-Materials vs Fixed Price: Which to Choose for Your Project?

In circumstances where clients reach out to us with a full documentation package, we provide them with a detailed estimate within 2+ business days. To ensure greater certainty with estimation, project management tools like JIRA and Slack are used.

To sum up, the detailed project estimation can be divided into four simple steps:

Major steps in detailed project estimate

Customer benefits from detailed estimate:

  • Better transparency

Following the Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) we display the user stories and use cases with all the features. Every smaller feature includes functionality overview with functions and purposes. Such approach provides clients with a better understanding of what is going to be implemented and excludes pitfalls due to the usage of technical terms.    

  • Lower risks

Detailed project portioning improves accuracy and reduces the probability of faults or hidden risks. On the top of that, a comprehensive project analysis allows us to anticipate potential issues and grab the bull by the horns.

  • Fast start of the development process

Detailed IT project estimation represents a list of technical tasks for developers and can form the basis of a project plan. Later on, the development team will expend less time in designing web app architecture and optimizing performance.  Consequently, clients get an end-to-end solution within the stipulated date.  

If you'd like to put additional questions to our experts, send us an email.
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