The Leprechauns of Software Engineering

Author: Laurent Bossavit


by anonymous   2018-03-05

The cone of uncertainty was referenced above ... it's a well-known foundational element used in agile estimation practices.

What's the problem with it though? Doesn't it look too symmetrical - as if it's not natural, not really based on real data?

If you ever though that then you're right. The cone of uncertainty shown in the picture above is made up based on probabilities ... not actual raw data from real projects (but most of the times it's used as such).

Laurent Bossavit wrote a book and also gave a presentation where he presented his research on how that cone came to be (and other 'facts' we often believe in software engineering):

The Leprechauns of Software Engineering

Is there some real data to support a cone of uncertainty? The closest he was able to find was a cone that can go up to 10x in the positive Y direction (so we can be up to 10 times off on our estimation in terms of the project taking 10 times as long in the end).

Hardly anybody estimates a project that ends up finishing 4 times earlier ... or ... gasp ... 10 times earlier.