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The conundrum of software estimation models

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1 Author(s)
Ferens, D.V. ; Res. Lab., Wright-Patterson AFB, OH, USA

There are many sophisticated models and methods for estimating the size, cost, and schedule of software projects. However, the ability to accurately estimate software cost, size, or schedule is still dubious. In general, the predictive accuracy of models for estimating software development cost and schedule has not been shown to be better than “within 25 percent of actual cost or schedule, about one half of the time”, especially for Department of Defense software efforts. The same is true for software size estimating models and methods, although there are some studies that have shown superior results. For software support (or maintenance) cost estimation, no model has been demonstrated to be accurate. This paper presents a summary of efforts performed to date which demonstrate the accuracy (or lack thereof) of software models. The results of several studies in the areas of software development cost and schedule estimation, size estimation, and support cost estimation are presented to show what these models can and cannot do. Some ideas for improvement are also presented, including the results of some studies which may lead to a resolution of the accuracy conundrum which currently exists

Published in:

Aerospace and Electronic Systems Magazine, IEEE  (Volume:14 ,  Issue: 3 )