Can I trust the Basic schedule equation?

Posted by Steve Campbell on Programmers See other posts from Programmers or by Steve Campbell
Published on 2012-11-02T14:18:34Z Indexed on 2012/11/05 17:17 UTC
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I've been reading Steve McConnell's demystifying the black art of estimating book, and he gives an equation for estimating nominal schedule based on Person-months of effort:

ScheduleInMonths = 3.0 x EffortInMonths ^ (1/3)

Per the book, this is very accurate (within 25%), although the 3.0 factor above varies depending on your organization (typically between 2 and 4). It is supposedly easy to use historical projects in your organization to derive an appropriate factor for your use.

I am trying to reconcile the equation against Agile methods, using 2-6 week cycles which are often mini-projects that have a working deliverable at the end. If I have a team of 5 developers over 4 weeks (1 month), then EffortInMonths = 5 Person Months. The algorithm then outputs a schedule of 3.0 x 5^(1/3) = 5 months.

5 months is much more than 25% different than 1 month. If I lower the 3.0 factor to 0.6, then the algorthim works (outputs a schedule of approx 1 month). The lowest possible factor mentioned in the book through is 2.0.

Whats going on here? I want to trust this equation for estimating a "traditional" non-agile project, but I cannot trust it when it does not reconcile with my (agile) experience. Can someone help me understand?

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