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Abstract

This paper examines how a team of software professionals goes about estimating the effort of a software project using a judgment-based, bottom-up estimation approach. By employing a social practice perspective that highlights the distributed character of expertise and conceives actions as mediated by cultural tools, the paper analyzes the interactional process through which the estimation tasks were collectively accomplished. The findings show how software effort estimation is carried out through complex series of explorative and sense-making actions, rather than by applying assumed information or routines. During the explorative work, the team alternated between the planning and the problem solving aspects of the activity. The requirement specification served several mediating functions in the interactional process, through which expertise was mobilised and coordinated. The paper argues that to grasp the complexity of software estimation, there is a need for more research that accounts for the communicative and interactional dimensions of this activity. Moreover, by revealing the interactional details of a planning activity the paper contributes to our understanding of the future-oriented and constructive dimensions of social practices.

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