Use These Two Smart Estimating Techniques

Sunday, January 11, 2015, 6:00 AM | Leave Comment

A project typically involves many dynamic aspects, yet they’re often constrained by finite conditions some of which are quite rigid and static.

These opposing and contradictory forces make it extremely difficult to determine with pinpoint accuracy the time and effort and financial resources required.

By using the following two proactive estimating techniques to scope, plan, and constrain your project conditions, you can dramatically improve your estimating practices, reduce and mitigate risks, and increase your project success rate.

  1. Include Project Meetings and Collaboration Time in Your Estimate

    Departmental and company meetings are not typically within your control. Since they are not directly project related, you may have a tendency to forget about them when creating your schedule and cost estimates.

    Include Project Meetings and Collaboration Time in Your Estimate

    If a department meeting is scheduled on an ad-hoc basis, you may have no choice but to attend and deal with the schedule impact.

    These meetings can be nuisances – taking up one or two hours from everyone on your project team.

    On the other hand, if these departmental meetings are scheduled monthly or quarterly, you can take them into account and build time into your schedule.

    The time may not count against your budget, but attending the meetings will impact your schedule.

    For example, if you know you typically have a quarterly two-hour department meeting, it would be foolish not to account for this time on your schedule.

    The department and company meetings are different from project meetings.

    Meetings that are project-related should definitely be included in the schedule and should be added to the estimated effort and cost of the project.

    This is because meetings of this type are within the control of the project team.

    The project manager can schedule these for one hour every other week or they could be scheduled every day.

    These could be status meetings or other meetings where team collaboration is needed.

    For instance, if you are planning a two-hour deliverable walkthrough, make sure you include the time of all participants.

    This project meeting is part of the project budget and duration.

    Likewise, if you are planning on having review meetings at the end of each milestone, make sure to include time for each participant for preparation, meeting attendance and post-meeting follow-up.

  2. Start Off With an Estimate Range

    There are many times when you are asked to give a high-level estimate for a project or an individual work activity. Usually you are asked to produce one number, for instance 1000 hours, or $50,000 cost.

    Start Off With an Estimate Range

    However, if at all possible, these high-level estimates should be given in a range. The range reflects the level of uncertainty for the estimate.

    For instance, a high-level estimate might only be accurate to within 50%. In the prior example of 1000 hours, for instance, you could estimate the work to be between 500 and 1500 hours.

    Another way to say the same thing is that you estimate the work at 1000 hours, plus or minus 50%.

    If there is a lot of uncertainty in the estimate, your margin of error could be plus or minus 100% or more.

    However, the purpose of providing the range is to help manage expectations. If you say that you estimate a piece of work to be 1000 hours – that is probably the number you will be held to.

    This could be a hard number to achieve. If you provide an estimate range, however, you will have a much better likelihood of delivering the work within the estimate and you have a way to show the level of uncertainty in the numbers.

Courtesy of…

This column is © copyright to and originally appeared in their weekly project management tip newsletter.

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