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There is another widely used project estimating technique called Estimation Prototyping. This technique makes use of an automated or computer model, often just a spreadsheet or single dedicated application, to assign effort in terms of numeric values to the components of a project and thus to derive a total estimate of effort and cost. The model will often use a base numeric to compare and contrast components with each other to arrive at comparative values for effort. The effort is represented in man days and the application of a man day rate as well as any accounting additions derives a total cost for the project or phase or whatever is the split of calculation and summary. The numeric we mentioned formerly is oftentimes a formalised dimension* used to represent a base set of tasks and to allow another set of tasks to be deemed more or less complex, involved and demanding than the base.

The application of positive or negative multipliers to an equation seeks to derive estimates for tasks that are accordingly larger and smaller than the base. So for example a task twice as complex as the base, if the base is say 20 points, then the larger task is 40 points. A task half as complex as the base, again the base is 20 points, then the smaller task is 10 points and so on. The model can get as complex or as simple as you require.

Often we see base desk costs included in the model and these are added for every team member to cover the true desktop costs of team personnel including equipment, support, electricity, insurance and other costs. Again a project that is using Estimation Prototyping is going to require sizeable up front analysis to derive the sub tasks and comparison numbers to drive the multiplication exercise.

The agile project is always best steered away from sizeable up front analysis. However, if this technique is used on the high level requirements, this can provide a useful management tool for the repetitive re-estimating activities that will simplify and automate the process.

Once you have chosen your base mathematical measurement for the base tasks the next challenge is to arrive at comparison sizes for new tasks. The overriding difficulty you will face however is that agile development is focussed on deliverables not tasks so the foremost choice when estimating agile is the subject of the next estimating technique: Planning Poker.



* - many organisations use function point analysis for this mathematical measurement

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