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Abstract

Software projects often do not meet their scheduling and budgeting targets. Inaccurate estimates are often responsible for this mismatch. This study investigates extant research on factors that affect accuracy of software development effort estimation. The purpose is to synthesize existing knowledge, propose directions for future research, and improve estimation accuracy in practice. A systematic mapping study (a comprehensive review of existing research) is conducted to identify such factors and their impact on estimation accuracy. Thirty-two factors assigned to four categories (estimation process, estimator’s characteristics, project to be estimated, and external context) are identified in a variety of research studies. Although the significant impact of several factors has been shown, results are limited by the lack of insight into the extent of these impacts. Our results imply a shift in research focus and design to gather more in-depth insights. Moreover, our results emphasize the need to argue for specific design decisions to enable a better understanding of possible influences of the study design on the credibility of the results. For software developers, our results provide a useful map to check the assumptions that undergird their estimates, to build comprehensive experience databases, and to adequately staff design projects.

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