Planix Tool Takes on Build-and-Test Guesstimates

Getting projects done on time and under budget is the Holy Grail for development managers. Longstanding methodologies for estimating the size, complexity and cost of a software dev project include function point analysis and constructive cost modeling. But overall estimation is an inexact science.

The software engineering consultancy ALTERthought hopes to change that with its hosted application Planix. The service takes high-level information about a project-use cases or the "user stories" found in agile development -- and crunches that data with proprietary methodology to generate estimates for a project's build-and-test phase. Users can generate various outcome scenarios, from "most likely" to "best-case" and "worst-case," as well as "what-if" scenarios.

ALTERthought CEO Sunjay Pandey says Planix can help developers and organizational leaders formulate a more realistic project plan. "Stakeholders are notoriously visionary and optimistic," he says. "That's great, and you want to keep that vision for the business, but Planix lets you put it all down in black and white."

The tool provides project estimates based on a number of factors, including its depth and range of planned features; the complexity of the tools and languages being used; and the abilities of team members. It's also calibrated for a variety of languages and platform -- including C#, Java, J2EE, .NET, Ruby and Ruby on Rails -- delivering estimates that reflect the programming environment.

Planix is a beneficial tool for most development teams and projects, according to Pandey. "We've seen it work for projects that are 500 to 600 hours in size [and for] projects that are 14,000 hours in size," he says. "But it's probably not applicable on tiny projects -- something that's going to take less than two or three weeks."

Despite this, Pandey says the product does not run counter to the agile dev model. "There has been a perception that it's anti-agile. But agile is based on planning your project on what people are telling you." He describes Planix as a "marriage of formal planning and formal estimation in conjunction with the principles of the Agile Manifesto that is probably more practical than either one alone."

Planix is now in public beta.

Article provided courtesy of Redmond Developer News (April 1, 2007).

About the Author

Chris Kanaracus is the news editor of Redmond Developer News.