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Wim Vlak (Amsterdam, The Netherlands)

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Software Estimation: Demystifying the Black Art
Software Estimation: Demystifying the Black Art
by Steve McConnell
Edition: Paperback
Price: £23.74

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb overview of 30 years of software estimation practice, 31 Oct. 2008
Steve McConnell gives a superb overview of 30 years of software estimation practices. The book is useful for both managers (to establish how well the company estimates software projects) and practitioners (with many pointers to literature with more in-depth discussions).

I liked in particular the clear distinction the book makes between estimates, targets and commitments. Also, the political minefield associated with estimates is discussed well. Another area which I liked very much is the emphasis on clarifying the assumptions on which the estimates were based.

Having said this, the book could be even better if it would explore deeper the following topics:

1) Who are permitted to estimate? The book loosely mentions that the best estimators are those who will do the work. True, but this is a minimum requirement.

2) What exactly is estimated? It takes about 20 chapters before the author mentions that most of the rules and benchmark material refer to the design, construction and testing of software (excluding requirements gathering and project management). It would be helpful if the scope of the software development would have been described more precisely from the beginning

3) A software development project most likely will be embedded in a larger project intending to deliver a business change. The book would have benefited from exploring the relationship (regarding effort, cost, schedule) with the components of the larger project

4) The book does not mention the relationship with benefit estimation. Also, today's software engineers are expected to be able to speak the language of finance, and the book would have benefited by discussing the time value of money, capitalization etc.

Nevertheless, this is a must buy for software engineers and managers who are involved in project estimation.

Leading IT Projects: The IT Manager's Guide
Leading IT Projects: The IT Manager's Guide
by Jessica Keyes
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £63.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Too shallow, 15 Oct. 2008
A pretty useless book. Tries to cover everything, and by doing so is too shallow in nearly every topic. Am not sure the author understands the topic, her examples of work breakdown structures (WBS) are simply wrong (the link to Wikipedia she provides presents WBS infinitely better).

At times the author is hilarous. What about the following (p100): "The most prevalent unit of measure for a project schedule is days. In a time-critical system (i.e. human-rated, where life and death is often at stake), it is quite possible that hours and even minutes might need to be used as units"

The author also borrows heavily from other sources (with acknowledgements of these sources). At times this deteriorates into lists and tables without much added value from the author.

The author's interpretation of 'project' is rather narrow: a project develops software. With this interpretation she misses that projects are expected to deliver a tangible business change, and that for a project to be successful the scope should be wider than 'developing software' only.

The examples given are haphazerd, and the author switches even within the same paragraph from one example to another, without finishing her point with the first example. Rather annoying (see for example p107 which starts with an example from the transportation industry, and then switches to the Dog E-Doctor System).

In short, a very high-level introduction to the topic, useful for the non-initiated who wants a quick introduction to the topic.

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