Steve Jones - SSC Editor (9/1/2015)
Yes, very true. We need to deal with it. I think we also need to set better expectations, as well as perform better.
We do ask lots of questions. The problem is the answers aren't often known, or revealed.
I agree. It is when the answers aren't known or revealed then we have to determine a range based on our assumptions in order to help provide an estimate.
This is why a risk assessment is helpful.
If the business is just trying to determine should they even pursue something there are multiple approaches.
You can have the business problem presented and then have people go off and estimate based on a lot of missing information.
You can also have the business tell you what they are willing to invest in having the problem solved. For example. the business is willing to invest 4 weeks of the teams time to make "X" happen. Does the team think they can do it?
In both cases you still have all of the same questions, but depending on the project duration and scope sometimes one approach reaches that high level business answer much quicker.
An estimate is a conversation that we want to lead us to a shared understanding. Part of that conversation should include that an estimate is a ultimately a guess based on what we know.
If one side is not comfortable with the estimate those areas of unease can be further explored to resolve questions and provide better estimates.
I find it very helpful to not only list out what is included in an estimate, any known assumptions, and also call out items that we specifically discussed but are not included in an estimate.
Ultimately, we have to execute on what we said we would do.
You can start getting crazy inflated estimates if a team, through experience, finds that whatever they estimate is going to be the exact number or they do not typically get any useful details on a project.