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How to use data to come up with estimates for tasks?

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SDE 1 at Amazona month ago

How to use data to come up with estimates for tasks at the initial stages? What's a reasonable time to come up with the estimates themselves (if there's research involved)?

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    Tech Lead/Manager at Meta, Pinterest, Kosei
    a month ago

    The easiest heuristic here is just to pattern-match on historical data. If you're doing project X, find something that looks similar to project X in the past year, and that should be the starting point for your estimate. See Alex's great answer here.

    The question of a reasonable time to come up with estimates is what I refer to as "a date for a date". This is a great practice of doing some legwork to better scope and understand the project. A few inputs for how long this should take:

    • It's directly correlated with the length of the project. e.g. if the project takes 6 months, it's reasonable to spend a few weeks to feel better about the estimate. If the project takes 1 month, you shouldn't spend more than a week.
    • How many people are you reliant on for the work? If there are many teams that need to approve the code, for example, or you're waiting on some migration by another team, you should accommodate time for that.
    • Understand how many unknowns there are, which will likely be revealed once you start implementation. Add buffer for these.

    If you feel like you don't have enough context, check out this detailed discussion.

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