Why is Estimating so Hard?

on Ben’s Blog

Uncle Bob explains why software estimation is so hard:

It turns out that we don’t know the procedure. We haven’t got any clue to just how difficult the procedure is. We aren’t computers. We don’t follow procedures. And so comparing the complexity of the manual task, to the complexity of the procedure is invalid.

This is one of the reasons that estimates are so hard, and why we get them wrong so often. We look at a task that seems easy and estimate it on that basis, only to find that writing down the procedure is actually quite intricate. We blow the estimate because we estimate the wrong thing.

This is really insightful. It helps to recognize why my estimates are so off, instead of applying some rule-of-thumb padding.