When talking to a developer about a task, determine how long will it take.

Oscar Brito

EstimateThe Programmer ThinksWhat the Programmer ForgotActual Time
30 secondsThere’s just a small change to the code to be done. I know exactly what to type and where. It takes 30 seconds to type.Time for starting the computer, the development environment and getting the right source. The time to build, test, check in and document the fix1 hour
5 minutesIt’s a minor thing, I just have to look up the exact syntax on google and fix it.It’s quite rare to find exactly the right information on the first try. Even if it is found, it probably needs some adjustments before it works. Add time for building, testing etc.2 hours
1 hourI know how to do it, but it’s some code to write so it will take some time.1 hour is too tight to have any margin for unforeseen problems. Something always fails.2 hours
4 hoursIt’s some code to write, but I roughly know the step. I know the Wizzabanga module of our standard framework can do it, but I have to check the documentation on exactly how to call it.This is probably the only realistic estimation. It is large enough to have some margin for unexpected problems, while the task is still small enough to grasp.4 hours
8 hoursI first have to refactor the Balunga class into two, then I’ll add a call to the Wizzabanga code and finally add the new fields to the GUIThere’s a lot of dependencies on the Balunga class from different parts of the system. About 40 different files have to be adjusted. The newly added field in the GUI has to be added in the database as well. 8 hours is too large to grasp completely. There will be more steps than the programmer thought of when estimating.12-16 hours
2 daysIt’s really quite a lot to code. I have to add some new tables to the database, a GUI for those and then the logic to read and write data to the tables.2 days of work is too large to overview for most developers. There will surely be things that are missed. Not just small things, but entire major pieces of functionality required will be forgotten during the estimation.5 days
1 weekOuch… that’s a HUGE task. I don’t have a clue on how to do it, but I can’t say I don’t know. One week should be enough, I hope, I really hope, but I can’t ask for more or they’ll think I’m not competent enough.The task is way too large to get an understanding of for most programmers. It has to be sent back to an architect that can help splitting it in smaller parts and provide some direction how it should be solved. The architect might find a simple way to do it – or find that there’s a lot more work than expected.2-20 days


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