Improving Software Effort Estimation Using an Expert-centred Approach

Document type: Conference Papers
Peer reviewed: Yes
Author(s): Emilia Mendes
Title: Improving Software Effort Estimation Using an Expert-centred Approach
Journal: Lecture Notes in Computer Science
Conference name: 4th International Conference on Human-Centered Software Engineering, HCSE
Year: 2012
Volume: 7623
Pagination: 18-33
ISSN: 0302-9743
Publisher: Springer
URI/DOI: 10.1007/978-3-642-34347-6_2
Organization: Blekinge Institute of Technology
Department: School of Computing (Sektionen för datavetenskap och kommunikation)
School of Computing S-371 79 Karlskrona
+46 455 38 50 00
Language: English
Abstract: A cornerstone of software project management is effort estimation, the process by which effort is forecasted and used as basis to predict costs and allocate resources effectively, so enabling projects to be delivered on time and within budget. Effort estimation is a very complex domain where the relationship between factors is non-deterministic and has an inherently uncertain nature, and where corresponding decisions and predictions require reasoning with uncertainty. Most studies in this field, however, have to date investigated ways to improve software effort estimation by proposing and comparing techniques to build effort prediction models where such models are built solely from data on past software projects - data-driven models. The drawback with such approach is threefold: first, it ignores the explicit inclusion of uncertainty, which is inherent to the effort estimation domain, into such models; second, it ignores the explicit representation of causal relationships between factors; third, it relies solely on the variables being part of the dataset used for model building, under the assumption that those variables represent the fundamental factors within the context of software effort prediction. Recently, as part of a New Zealand and later on Brazilian government-funded projects, we investigated the use of an expert-centred approach in combination with a technique that enables the explicit inclusion of uncertainty and causal relationships as means to improve software effort estimation. This paper will first provide an overview of the effort estimation process, followed by the discussion of how an expert-centred approach to improving such process can be advantageous to software companies. In addition, we also detail our experience building and validating six different expert-based effort estimation models for ICT companies in New Zealand and Brazil. Post-mortem interviews with the participating companies showed that they found the entire process extremely beneficial and worthwhile, and that all the models created remained in use by those companies. Finally, the methodology focus of this paper, which focuses on expert knowledge elicitation and participation, can be employed not only to improve a software effort estimation process, but also to improve other project management-related activities.
Subject: Software Engineering\General
Keywords: Cost Estimation; Expert-centred Approach; Process Improvement; Project Management; Software Effort Estimation