Have you ever had an executive ask how long a project will take before the project started? Yeah, I've been there too.
When asked, PAUSE. Be careful about how you respond.
Why? Because your credibility is at hand. Let's talk about the challenges of schedule estimates and three estimating techniques that can help us do a better job with our estimates. Lastly, we'll look at how to respond to future requests for estimates.
What happens if someone estimates a task to take 10 days when it should only take 5 days? Work expands to fill the time alloted.
Conversely, what happens when someone estimates a task to take 5 days when it should take 10? People rush their work. The results are poor quality, rework, higher costs, and adverse impacts on the schedule.
During and after each project, compare your actuals to your estimates. Do you see a pattern where certain team members estimate too high or too low? Consider how you can work with these individuals to improve estimates for future projects.
Each estimating technique has its strengths and weaknesses. Project managers should understand and apply each estimating technique appropriately.
Who Should Estimate the Activities?
When possible, have the person doing the work provide the estimates. They have the experience and expert judgment to provide the most accurate estimates. Project managers should work collaboratively with team members to complete estimates and build the schedule.
When an executive asks for an estimate early in a project, ask for a few days to complete the estimates. Review past projects to find similar projects. Complete a Top-Down Estimate and provide the estimate in a range such as 5-8 months.
Let management and your stakeholders know that you will provide a revised estimate with a higher confidence level after project planning. The team can complete a Bottom-Up Estimate.
If the project is unlike previous projects, utilize the Three-Point Estimate.
Finally, create your schedule baselines. Compare your actual cost and hours to the baselines. With experience, good data, and consistent reviews, you will get better and better with your estimates.
Question: In your experience, what are the biggest mistakes made by project managers in estimating projects? What can they do to improve?
Sign up for blog updates and receive the Project Management Plan Checklist. Make sure that you are including the right project baselines, subsidiary plans, and ancillary plans in your project management plans.
Join 1,000 project managers today!