UCLA Extension

Software Cost and Schedule Estimation

A 3-Day Short Course

Many software development projects are delivered late and over budget. These projects often do not meet the original requirements, have an unacceptable number of defects, and may not even function properly. This course is designed to show participants how to estimate software development costs and schedules to avoid large overruns—whether the project is a few thousand dollars or tens of millions of dollars—and also how to recognize and overcome potential software development failures.

Complete Details

The course provides practical techniques and tools to estimate, plan, and complete high quality projects that are on budget and schedule, and is designed for:

  • Technical and business managers
  • Senior technical staff
  • Software project and program managers
  • Members of Independent Project Teams (IPTs)
  • Software developers and programmers
  • Software engineers and entrepreneurs who plan, implement, control, and track software development projects in industry, government, and universities
  • Customers of software development projects

The course also can benefit managers and technical staff who must understand process and product metrics, their collection, and their use in improving software cost and schedule estimation.

Specific course objectives include:

  • Understanding the advantages and disadvantages of different software development cost and schedule estimation methods
  • How to start and use a software development metrics program to support estimation
  • How to avoid common errors and pitfalls in software development estimation
  • Understanding the importance of new costing concepts and paradigms
  • Gaining insight into the software cost estimation process by examining case studies from a broad cross section of the public and private sectors
  • How to manage the software development cost and schedule estimation process
  • Recognizing 10 key factors to prevent software project failure
  • Dealing with emerging cost issues–Web development, rapid prototyping, concurrent development, object-oriented approaches, COTS (commercial-off-the-shelf) software, re-use driven approaches, quality assessments and certifications (ISO and CMMI Capability Maturity Model), and reengineering
  • Becoming an informed customer of software estimates that are developed by others for you
  • Interacting with software professionals from industry, government, and universities
  • Introducing rules-of-thumb and reference sources

Please bring a calculator.

Course Materials

Course notes, consisting of copies of PowerPoint slides, are distributed on the first day of the course. These materials are for participants only and are not for sale.

Coordinator and Lecturer

Donald S. Remer, PhD, PE, President, Claremont Consulting Group, Claremont, California; and Oliver C. Field Professor of Engineering, Harvey Mudd College of Engineering and Science, Claremont, California. Dr. Remer has been managing projects, performing cost estimation and project feasibility studies, and doing technical and economic evaluations for over 30 years. He has managed over 60 projects ranging from tens of thousands of dollars to hundreds of millions of dollars. His industrial and consulting experience includes aerospace, automotive, biotechnology, chemical, computers and software companies, electronics, medical products, oil shale, paper and pulp, and petroleum companies; design, construction, and legal firms; local, regional, and federal agencies; utilities and railroads; research and development laboratories; and energy and environmental projects.

Dr. Remer’s clients range from small entrepreneurs to Fortune 500 companies and government agencies, including clients such as Beckman-Coulter, Boeing, Booz-Allen & Hamilton, eCivis, GEC Marconi and Lear Astronics (now BAE Systems), Hewlett-Packard, TRW (now Northrop Grumman), Disney, the FAA, Sequent Computer (now IBM), JPL, 20th Century Fox, Amgen, QAD, Raytheon, Northrop Grumman, St. Jude Medical, Lawrence Livermore and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratories, Los Alamos National Laboratory, Sandia National Laboratories, U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Air Force, County of San Bernardino, and the City of Tucson, Arizona. He has also served as a task force and project manager and division coordinator for Exxon, and director of the Energy Institute at Harvey Mudd College. He has presented short courses in project management, managing and estimating software projects, and project cost estimation and economic evaluation to over 10,000 practicing professionals.

Dr. Remer is a registered Professional Engineer in California, Michigan, and Louisiana. He is the former director of the American Society of Engineering Management and is currently on the editorial board of the International Journal of Production Economics. He was recently selected to be a charter member of the new Engineering Management Honor Society that was started by the American Society of Engineering Management. He has produced over 50 publications on cost estimation, capital investment evaluation, and engineering and project management. The International Society of Parametric Analysts named his paper on cost modeling the outstanding paper of the year in the Journal of Parametrics. Dr. Remer was case study editor of The Engineering Economist and has been on the editorial boards of Engineering and Process Economics and Engineering Costs and Production Economics.

Course Program


  • Objectives and overview
  • Why software projects are often late, over budget, and/or cancelled

Nature of Software Projects

  • Success rate for software projects
  • Historical cost and schedule estimating results for software projects
  • Surveys on cost and schedule estimation chaos
  • Remer’s Rule of Three
  • Challenges often encountered with software projects
  • Brooks’ Law

Introduction to Software Estimating Methods

  • Fantasy Factor
  • Top-down estimating
  • Bottom-up estimating
  • Parametric estimating
  • Three-point estimating or range/probability estimating
  • Price-to-win estimating

Software Development Estimating

  • Factors that influence a software development cost estimate
  • Development costs vs. maintenance costs
  • Empirical estimation methods
    — SLIM
    — PRICE-S
    — Function/feature points
  • Development time-cost tradeoff
  • Schedule estimation
  • Estimating web development projects

Case Studies on Software Engineering

Staffing and Productivity Estimates

  • Productivity of software developers
  • Labor costs, including overhead and fringe benefits
  • Documentation estimates
  • Productivity increases from new development methods
  • Productivity vs. project size

Managing the Software Estimating Process

  • Key initial questions to ask
  • Contingency policy
  • Case study on why you need contingency
  • 90% Syndrome
  • Post-mortem analysis
  • Challenging requirements and looking for hidden requirements
  • Software development projects are growing in size
  • Work break structure (WBS) for software projects

Metrics for Software Estimating

  • Size and function-oriented metrics
  • Metrics development and collection caveats
  • Starting a metrics collection program
  • Examples of detailed and bare-bones databases
  • Two metrics case studies

Evaluating a Software Project’s Chance of Success

  • Cancellation as a function of project size
  • 10 key criteria
  • Case studies
  • Evaluating your current projects

Emerging Software Estimating Issues

  • Reengineering dramatically impacts organizational performance
  • Software offshoring and outsourcing
  • Quality and process standards—ISO and CMMI
  • Flexible career options
  • Increased training demands
  • Software development techniques
    — Reuse
    — COTS (commercial-off-the-shelf)
    — Rapid prototyping
    — Object-oriented
  • Share resource conflicts
  • Cost estimating and project management certifications by professional societies

Summary and Wrap-Up

  • Key ideas and challenges to take back to your organization
  • Your personal action plan
  • Tips for applying what you learned when you return to work

Sources for Software Cost and Schedule Estimation Information

For more information contact the Short Course Program Office:
shortcourses@uclaextension.edu | (310) 825-3344 | fax (310) 206-2815