On the application of artificial intelligence and human computation to the automation of agile software task effort estimation

Alhamed, Mohammed (2022) On the application of artificial intelligence and human computation to the automation of agile software task effort estimation. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

Full text available as:
[img] PDF
Download (3MB)


Software effort estimation (SEE), as part of the wider project planning and product road mapping process, occurs throughout a software development life cycle. A variety of effort estimation methods have been proposed in the literature, including algorithmic methods, expert based methods, and more recently, methods based on techniques drawn from machine learning and natural language processing. In general, the consensus in the literature is that expert-based methods such as Planning Poker are more reliable than automated effort estimation. However, these methods are labour intensive and difficult to scale to large-scale projects.

To address this limitation, this thesis investigates the feasibility of using human computation techniques to coordinate crowds of inexpert workers to predict expert-comparable effort estimates for a given software development task. The research followed an empirical methodology and used four different methods: literature review, replication, a series of laboratory experiments, and ethnography.

The literature uncovered the lack of suitable datasets that include the attributes of descriptive text (corpus), actual cost, and expert estimates for a given software development task. Thus, a new dataset was developed to meet the necessary requirements.

Next, effort estimation based on recent natural language processing advancements was evaluated and compared with expert estimates. The results suggest that there was no significant improvement, and the automated approach was still outperformed by expert estimates. Therefore, the feasibility of scaling the Planning Poker effort estimation method by using human computation in a micro-task crowdsourcing environment was explored. A series of pilot experiments were conducted to find the proper design for adapting Planning Poker to a crowd environment.

This resulted in designing a new estimation method called Crowd Planning Poker (CPP). The pilot experiments revealed that a significant proportion of the crowd submitted poor quality assignments. Therefore, an approach to actively managing the quality of SEE work was proposed and evaluated before being integrated into the CPP method. A substantial overall evaluation was then conducted. The results demonstrated that crowd workers were able to discriminate between tasks of varying complexity and produce estimates that were comparable with those of experts and at substantially reduced cost compared with small teams of domain experts.

It was further noted in the experiments that crowd workers provide useful insights as to the resolution of the task. Therefore, as a final step, fine-grained details about crowd workers’ behaviour, including actions taken and artifacts reviewed, were used in an ethnographic study to understand how crowd effort estimation takes place in a crowd. Four persona archetypes were developed to describe the crowd behaviours, and the results of the behaviour analysis were confirmed by surveying the crowd workers.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Subjects: Q Science > QA Mathematics > QA75 Electronic computers. Computer science
Colleges/Schools: College of Science and Engineering > School of Computing Science
Supervisor's Name: Storer, Dr. Tim and Omoronyia, Dr. Inah
Date of Award: 2022
Depositing User: Theses Team
Unique ID: glathesis:2022-83231
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 27 Oct 2022 08:24
Last Modified: 27 Oct 2022 08:24
Thesis DOI: 10.5525/gla.thesis.83231
URI: http://theses.gla.ac.uk/id/eprint/83231
Related URLs:

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item


Downloads per month over past year