Miranda, P; Faria, JP; Correia, FF; Fares, A; Graça, R; Moreira, JM;
SAC '21: The 36th ACM/SIGAPP Symposium on Applied Computing, Virtual Event, Republic of Korea, March 22-26, 2021
Forecasts of the effort or delivery date can play an important role in managing software projects, but the estimates provided by development teams are often inaccurate and time-consuming to produce. This is not surprising given the uncertainty that underlies this activity. This work studies the use of Monte Carlo simulations for generating forecasts based on project historical data. We have designed and run experiments comparing these forecasts against what happened in practice and to estimates provided by developers, when available. Comparisons were made based on the mean magnitude of relative error (MMRE). We did also analyze how the forecasting accuracy varies with the amount of work to be forecasted and the amount of historical data used. To minimize the requirements on input data, delivery date forecasts for a set of user stories were computed based on takt time of past stories (time elapsed between the completion of consecutive stories); effort forecasts were computed based on full-time equivalent (FTE) hours allocated to the implementation of past stories. The MMRE of delivery date forecasting was 32% in a set of 10 runs (for different projects) of Monte Carlo simulation based on takt time. The MMRE of effort forecasting was 20% in a set of 5 runs of Monte Carlo simulation based on FTE allocation, much smaller than the MMRE of 134% of developers' estimates. A better forecasting accuracy was obtained when the number of historical data points was 20 or higher. These results suggest that Monte Carlo simulations may be used in practice for delivery date and effort forecasting in agile projects, after a few initial sprints. © 2021 ACM.
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