Is a SWAG Estimate Agile in project management?

In project management, the Swag estimate is a rough estimate of the amount of work that needs to be done in order to complete a project. This estimate is typically made during the early stages of a project when there is still a lot of uncertainty about the scope and requirements. This method emphasizes the delivery of results rather than process or outputs as it is based on the concept of the expected value, which is the average of all possible outcomes. 

SWAG is a simple yet effective technique used in project management as a tool that helps to roughly estimate the cost, time, and resources required for a projectSWAG stands for Scientific Wild-ass Guess.

The swag technique can be used for a variety of different projects, from small tasks to large-scale initiatives. If you are planning a project, this tool can help you to estimate the resources you will need and the time it will take to complete the project.

Benefits of using SWAG Estimate

In project management, time can be money,  and it is essential to have an accurate estimate of the time required to complete a project in order to avoid any unforeseen delays or cost overruns. Using this tool can be quite beneficial for your organization.

  1. It is very quick and easy to do, just like a ballpark estimation
  2. It can be used when there is very little information available about a project
  3. It can be relatively accurate
  4. SWAG can be done without any specialized knowledge or training
  5. It can be used for a variety of different projects
Overall, the estimating technique is a valuable tool that can help save time and money on projects
Project Estimate Definition

How is the Swag Estimate determined?

This estimate is based on the principle of scope, time, and resources. This means that it is highly valuable when you are determining the project’s budget and organizing your project’s timeline.

SWAG estimates can be determined using a scoring system that takes into account the complexity of the project, the team’s experience level, and the customer’s expectations. 

This system is designed to provide a more accurate estimate of the value that will be delivered by the software development team.

Swag Estimate in Agile 

Now that we have a clear understanding of what SWAG is, we can begin to answer the question of how it is estimated in project management with an agile project.

Swag estimate in agile is a discussing topic for many agile teams. It is a common practice to estimate the story points for backlog items in agile for example.

In agile software development, there is often the need to estimate the time it will take to complete a task or project.

When estimating you can use a scoring system that takes into account the following points –

  • The complexity of the project
  • The team’s experience level
  • The customer’s expectations.

SWAG estimate represents the value that will be delivered to the customer by the software development team. This estimate will be based on a number of factors such as –

  • Including the complexity of the task
  • The size of the team
  • The experience of the team members

The difficulty in time estimation occurs due to the fact that each team has its own definition of what a point means. But you can determine a rough estimate of your team by using techniques like T-shirt sizes while some other teams use the Fibonacci sequence in order to understand how long the project will take. 

Components of a SWAG Estimate Project Management

When estimating the cost of a software project, there are a few key components that must be considered in order to get an accurate estimate.
These components include

Cost of materialsCost of LaborCost of Overhead
It includes the cost of any software licenses that may be required, as well as the cost of any hardware that will be used in the projectThis includes the salaries of any developers who will be working on the project, as well as the cost of any other support staff that may be requiredThe cost of overhead includes the cost of office space, internet access, and any other indirect costs that may be associated with the project.

By taking all of these factors into account, you can get a more accurate estimate of the true cost of a software project.

Creating a SWAG estimation and making it accurate

By doing a Work Breaking Down process you can turn them into high-level components and estimate each part of it by a standard or knowledgeable approach.

Your focus should be on achieving objectives and goals that are tangible and measurable, so make sure you are focusing on the most important and delivery results. 

What if you don’t have a team and you really need to estimate your project quickly?

Agile SWAG Estimate Example

Imagine you’re the project manager for XYZ Corporation and you have just been assigned to develop an eCommerce store for X client. The question is: How much will this project cost?  

According to your expertise and knowledge, you can easily sum up all the components and estimate the time depending on your team size and their skills.

For example, you GUESS it takes 6 months to develop this software and you GUESS it may cost 2,000 to complete the project. The total sum of the components and the average of all these would be your SWAG number.  Once you have an overall estimate you will have a rough number that will give you a general idea of the project. But it will be defined by GUESSES.

However, this number sometimes can drive you to errors with resources and time. This is why this estimation should always be followed up with more detailed and accurate estimation techniques, like the PERT formula.

PERT vs SWAG Estimate

Although PERT FORMULA is more accurate than SWAG estimation, it can be more time-consuming but way more detailed.

PERT (Program Evaluation Review Technique) is a more reliable way to estimate the time necessary to complete a project because it estimates:

The individual task duration

The uncertainty of the tasks

The plan for what needs to be done if the project takes longer than expected

The PERT formula takes into account the three main variables that can impact the timelines of a project:

  • The optimistic estimate (O)
    •  which is the shortest amount of time the project could possibly take
  • The most likely estimate (M) 
    • which is the most likely amount of time the project will take
  • The pessimistic estimate (P)
    •  which is the longest amount of time the project could take

To calculate the PERT estimate, you first need to find the average of the optimistic and pessimistic estimates. This is done by adding the O and P estimates together and then dividing by two. You then add this average to the most likely estimate (M) to get the PERT estimate

This is the formula

E = (O + 4M +P) / 6

Although PERT FORMULA is more accurate than SWAG estimate, it can be more time-consuming. But it is considered way more reliable.

Pitfalls when doing a Agile SWAG estimate in Software Development

Software development is a complex process, and one of the most difficult aspects of it is an estimation. Estimating the time and resources required for a project is essential for its success, but it is also notoriously difficult to get right.

Cons Of SWAG Estimate

Not recommendable for projects that are extremely unusual
It is not very accurate and can lead to unrealistic expectations, meaning that it can give stakeholders a false sense of confidence in the accuracy of the estimate
It is important to keep in mind that SWAG estimation is only an approximation and should not be used as the sole source of information for planning and decision-making
 It’s not a guarantee, and it’s important to have a contingency plan in place in case the actual amount of work required ends up being more than what was estimated.


What is the Swag Estimate in a nutshell?

A SWAG estimation can be a helpful tool when you’re trying to determine how much time and resources you’ll need to complete a project.

How accurate is the Swag Estimate?

The SWAG is an informed approximation, although it is not considered the best or most accurate assessment. Just keep in mind that the Swag Estimate is just an estimate. It is not a guarantee of the actual cost, time, or effort required for the project.

What are the KEY components needed for a Swag estimation?

When estimating, consider the cost of materials as the total, the number of people involved in the project, and the indirect costs that may affect the project in general.

What are the skills required to create a SWAG estimate?

As it is a rough estimate, it can be easily given by a specialist based on their expertise and previous perception of similar projects.

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