Saturday, February 26, 2011

3 years, $1M

Most people that know me in the industry know my automatic response when asked to estimate on vague requirements for enhancements or a new small-to-medium-sized system.
"7 years, $1M."
This often was turned around to "1 year, $7M if you're in a hurry."

I've since revised this to a more reasonable "3 years, $1M"

This usually gets a laugh out of people but I'm actually quite sincere about it as a general estimate. If something has been well thought out and requirements have been neatly separated into units of work that can be estimated and built then I can give a detailed estimate for the exact amount of work needed. When all someone gives me is a rough idea of what they want, then my response is that I'm reasonably confident that I can deliver exactly what they want for $1M (preferably up-front) and in 3 years.

This covers the time to do proper requirements gathering, prototyping, iterative development & re-factoring, plus testing to ensure the end product is spit-shined. They will have something available in production before the three year mark, but what they had in their mind (and reasonable additional stuff they're surely to think of or require along the way) will be complete within 3 years. The simple truth is the endless cycles of negotiation, re-prioritization, and up-scaling to try and meet unreasonable time or scope expectations wastes far, far, more money.