When will it be done?

So your manager asked you for an estimate. Here is why.

I'm not sure if as a dev I dreaded more estimating work or tracking hours. I know I hated it and I wasn't really good at it. To me, it lacked the science behind it. Things were never comparable to what we've done in the past so in the end, it felt like making guesstimates. The more work I estimated, the better I got, but still, it wasn't something I'd ever call fun.

Estimating projects

There is a ton of reasons why you'd be asked for an estimate. If you work at a consultancy and you're doing projects, your life basically depends on it. Make the estimate too low and your organization will lose money not to mention the angry customer for delivering late. Make it too high and you might lose the project to a cheaper competitor. Estimates drive your sales and delivery and there is no way around it. If you work at a consultancy, the better you get at estimates, the quicker your organization will see profits.

Estimating products

For product organizations, things are a little different. At least that's how we choose to approach estimates. Whenever we're deciding to build something at Rencore, we're looking at its importance first and foremost. If we deem something important enough, it will get moved up the priority list.

Next, as a part of product planning, I need to understand roughly when the particular feature will be done. I don't need an exact date, because we're shipping and communicating the moment something is ready. We decoupled tech and marketing releases so there is less pressure on the dev team to hit a specific date. Still, I need to know if something will take a day, a week or a month to understand the investment that we're about to make and if it's worth the effort.

So unless you're estimating projects for sales and your life depends on it, when your manager is asking you for an estimate, most likely they don't want a UTC timestamp but are merely looking for a ballpark figure to justify the effort or plan related work. Approach it as such and when in doubt, ask them. And when things change, and they likely will the moment you start the work, don't forget to update them because managers hate surprises.

Photo by Austin Distel on Unsplash