Sequence effects in the estimation of software development effort
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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OriginalversjonJørgensen M, Halkjelsvik TH. Sequence effects in the estimation of software development effort. Journal of Systems and Software. 2019 https://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jss.2019.110448
Currently, little is known about how much the sequence in which software development tasks or projects are estimated affects judgment-based effort estimates. To gain more knowledge, we examined estimation sequence effects in two experiments. In the first experiment, 362 software professionals estimated the effort of three large tasks of similar sizes, whereas in the second experiment 104 software professionals estimated the effort of four large and five small tasks. The sequence of the tasks was randomised in both experiments. The first experiment, with tasks of similar size, showed a mean increase of 10% from the first to the second and a 3% increase from the second to the third estimate. The second experiment showed that estimating a larger task after a smaller one led to a mean decrease in the estimate of 24%, and that estimating a smaller task after a larger one led to a mean increase of 25%. There was no statistically significant reduction in the sequence effect with higher competence. We conclude that more awareness about how the estimation sequence affects the estimates may reduce potentially harmful estimation biases. In particular, it may reduce the likelihood of a bias towards too low effort estimates.