• Gene

The Common Problem Areas Of Mobile App Project Estimate

Updated: Jan 11, 2019

I've highlighted common project estimate practices as part of previous post.

This time let's concentrate on common issues that product and technical teams face. If you ever dealt with the mobile startups, you might know that often the startup owners do not care about preparing any software requirements document or mock-ups to describe their idea to the technical team. They have thoughts about what they need and when they want to receive it.

So the most frequently demanded information from the team of developers is the terms and costs of the final product. However, the developers cannot read thoughts and transfer the high-level conceptions into the proper and detailed estimates.

If you are a business or product owner, please consider that the more details you provide to your iOS or Android application development team in the very beginning, the closer the result will be to your expectations. Proper and detailed requirements guarantee the quality of the further estimate. If you have no documentation in the very beginning, you might have it after the lengthy discussions with the engineering team or business analyst.

We consider estimate as one of the most crucial parts of the project, especially in iOS development. Without an excellent and detailed estimation process, there will be no overall success of the product. Of course, an estimation process is not an easy task, and some problems related to it are unique and happen because of the specific mix of circumstance, resources and people involved. However, there is good news. Some issues are common, and there are standard ways to avoid them, regardless of the project specifics. We put the most common problem areas in the list, and we will offer a solution to each one.

Estimation And Scheduling Problems Happening Inside Of The Development Team

  • Inefficient project management has such symptoms as you cannot find a vital cost control information, your managers implement the project decisions differently from the plan, you seem puzzled while trying to remember what exactly your team does on the project right now and what’s going to be next.

To make your project management efficient, you might revise the authority/responsibility relationships and clearly define it. Enforce your internal policy and procedural discipline. The situation will not change without your intervention.

  • Insufficient work definition means you cannot correctly relate the resource expenditures to the amount of work done, or your plans rarely meet fact. You can face an insufficient work definition if your engineering team lacks details of the project description in general or the particular feature. As a result, you cannot define, estimate and accomplish the project correctly.

To evaluate and determine the amount of work to-do sufficiently, you might provide your engineering team with as many details as they require and control the workflow to ensure the plan always meets fact. If your project is agile, you can use Jira to track the workflow and Jira built-in reporting tools to see the big picture of the project, for example.

  • The unrealistic schedules come up frequently. They have such symptoms as overrun of project costs, missed milestone dates, constant revision of performance measurement methods. It happens as a result of the combination of causes: from the lack of penalty for poor schedule performance to extremely optimistic scheduling.

To make your scheduling closer to real life, base your estimate on the historical data, collected from previous experience. Also, in the very beginning, count and consider all the factors that can make the project last longer. Identify risks and measure their impact in hours or percentage.

Estimation And Scheduling Problems Involving Product Management Team

  • The underestimated costs on the project can happen if the product owner doesn’t have a proper plan and documentation, or changes the project tasks frequently. Usually, these causes occur together.

To ensure the costs are estimated correctly on every stage of a project, you might revise the estimated costs on every stage of a project. Change the estimate techniques, introduce risk buffers.

  • The misunderstanding on the project can happen because of miscommunication between team members. The Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) is a powerful tool ensuring the whole team is on the same page while discussing the project schedule and priorities. It eliminates the ambiguity.

To communicate with the technical team properly, use one of the existing templates (or create a custom one) and build WBS for your project at the very beginning. If your team doesn’t want to switch to the WBS for some reason, offer a “sticky note” method to them.

  • If you accept statements like “Get started, and we will talk next week” from your product owner, you are getting the technical team in trouble because you cannot start proper estimate from such kind of phrase.

Communicate with the product team, discuss every detail and receive as much data as you need. Finalize the evaluation with as many features as possible and save both time and costs in the long-term prospect.

  • Don’t let the padding happen on your project. Provide a transparent and fair estimate.

Review the estimate every team member gives, but don’t try to optimize it too much. Remember, an open discussion with the technical team is always better than failed deadlines.

  • Set the priorities correctly. Not every project in your company (or feature in specific project) is the primary one and requires the most attention.

Consider re-prioritizing tasks once in a fixed amount of time, for example, once per month.

There is one more thing-to-do. Establish the framework of repeatable processes on the project. For example, let the engineering team use programming instantiations such as code templates, as well as reusable program components. Development environment images, SDLC templates, CI/CD, QA guidelines, UAT, Production support guidelines.

Also, backup your previous projects and use them as the source of valuable information. Thus you will have more cases to learn on and improve the future workflow experience. If you have no time for planning, why do you have time to make the same mistakes over and over again? Think about it. Consider that poor estimate of terms and costs can also lead to inadequate cost control and accounting during the whole project. Your company is a system that might work together, and all the components should be on the same page during the development process. It’s also good to have a strict formal estimating procedure going through a central database. Your accounting methods also should be up-to-date. Remember that a small pain now can make a significant benefit tomorrow. So find the time to estimate your project correctly, make a difference.

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