ETA stands for Estimated Time of Arrival. Sometimes ETA is also used as Expected Time of Arrival. ETA was first commonly used in the transportation industry between transportation companies, like bus, train, or airplane companies, and their customers.
Nowadays, ETA is across all industries including software development. ETA is now part of everyday language and is used to estimate:
- When something should happen
- When something should arrive at a specific location
- When something is ready/finished/done
An ETA is at best an educated guess or estimation based on past performance and experience. It is not a definite measurement or deadline. An ETA is reliable only under favorable conditions. If something goes wrong, most likely your ETA will be wrong too.
ETA in Software Development
In the software development world, ETA refers to the estimated date by which a product’s development is finished and it is ready to be shipped or presented. When asks you for a software’s ETA, what they are asking you to do is to analyze the effort and time needed to complete the project before you come up with an informed due date (sometimes workhours) when it will be ready.
ETA vs Deadline
An ETA is an elastic estimation of when an event should take place. On the other hand, a Deadline is a set-in-stone time or date by which an event should have taken place or occurred. An ETA is usually determined from internal factors such as performance, speed, labor, etc. whereas a deadline is set by external factors such as management, published release dates, marketing seasons, etc. In short, an ETA is adjustable while a set deadline is non-negotiable.
How to Give Better ETAs?
ETAs are like promises of delivery. When you give an ETA, you are giving a promise that will represent your personal brand. Nothing loses your trustworthiness, reputation, and professionalism like a broken promise. Therefore, you should come up with deadlines you can keep, this way, every time you deliver within the ETA, you are reinforcing your credibility to the recipient.
Here are a few things you should do to start giving more accurate ETAs:
Get a Specifications (Spec) Document
Beginning development or production without a document that clearly states and explains the features, design, expected operations, product objective/motivation, metrics, etc. is a recipe for disaster. A Spec document serves as your guiding light when you are doing estimations and even when you start product development. It will narrow down to a better ETA for that specific product.
Add Extra Padding
Whatever ETA you come up with, you should add at least 20% to 40% of the ETA on top. Murphy’s Law states that whatever can go wrong will go wrong, therefore it is better to estimate and plan ahead, taking into account the inevitable and unexpected. Do not give yourself tight ETAs which you can’t keep. However, you should still aim to complete the project by your original ETA (without the extra time-padding). By doing so, you would have extra time to do with as you wish.
Keep a Record of Past Work, Projects, and Hours Spent.
Keeping a log or record book with your past activities on similar projects is a key step to mastering the art of ETAs. A record will help you give better ETAs by drawing comparisons with past performance on similar projects. Not only that a record will also help in other spheres like salary negotiations and vacations.
Breakdown the Project into Smaller Tasks.
Estimates of a huge chunk of work are often incorrect, however, if you break down your project into bite-sized and familiar pieces, it will be much easier and more accurate to estimate for each tiny step and use the total to better optimize your ETA.
Refer to the Calendar
After you have drawn an initial ETA, take a Calendar and distribute your ETA’s intervals onto the calendar. Take into account half-days, holidays, mandatory events/meetings, etc. when you cannot work, and eventually, you will have an accurate ETA.
Conclusion – ETA meaning
Now you know what an ETA is, meaning you can now distinguish an ETA from a Deadline. ETAs not only help businesses set a reliable schedule and increase productivity, but they also improve communication between departments through the use of familiar vocabulary.