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Estimating the Unknown: Dates or Budgets – Part 1

Estimating the Unknown: Dates or Budgets – Part 1
By Johanna Rothman

Almost every manager I know wants to know when a project will be done. Some managers decree when a project will be done. Some managers think they can decree both the date and the feature set. There is one other tiny small subset, those managers who ask, “When can you finish this set of ranked features?”

And, some managers want you to estimate the budget as well as the date. And now, you’re off into la-la land. Look, if you had any predictive power, you’d be off somewhere gambling, making a ton of money. But, you do have options. All of them require iterating on the estimates and the project.

First, a couple of cautions:

  1. Never, ever, ever provide a single date for a project or a single point for a budget without a range or a confidence level.
Read the Complete Article

8 Reasons Why the Estimates Are Too Low

8 Reasons Why the Estimates Are Too Low
By Jens Schauder

One of the most difficult tasks in a software development project is estimating the size of the project. Unfortunately very often you have to do it at the very beginning of a project, when you have the least information. The result at the end is very often a large difference between the original estimate and the actual time and money needed.

If the difference is positive as often as it is negative this is kind of OK. But in some teams estimates are too low almost all the time! The obvious strategy often employed is to add a certain percentage to the estimate. But of course that is just fixing the symptoms, because most of the time nobody knows the reason. So in this article I am going to show several reasons for bad estimates, how to identify them and also a possible fix. Read the Complete Article

Clarifying the Usage of Schedule Dependencies, Constraints & Deadlines

Clarifying the Usage of Schedule Dependencies, Constraints & Deadlines
By Kiron D. Bondale

While a correctly developed project schedule is a thing of beauty, a poorly created one can be a source of frustration to the project team and risk to the overall project success.

Developing a schedule before spending time to decompose the scope of a project is likely the primary sin of most poor planners, but it is closely followed by the incorrect usage of schedule dependencies, constraints & deadlines.

  1. Schedule dependencies represent a logical connection between two discrete activities. Such relationships should be related to the nature of the activities themselves and NOT to who will perform the tasks or to other such constraints. The dependencies most commonly provided include:
    • Finish-to-Start: The most common causal relationship hence no explanation is necessary for its usage.
    • Start-to-Finish: Rarely used but is useful when developing a schedule backwards from a fixed end date.

Read the Complete Article

Estimating Software Effort

Estimating Software Effort
By Sydney du Plooy

Estimating the effort it takes to produce a software product is a fairly difficult process. There are a couple of reasons why. They range from management politics to subjective guesses of how long programming tasks will take.

How then do you estimate the effort of a project with such uncertainties?

At the start of the project we should be able to get some idea of what the end-product will look like. From that, we can start estimating how long the bits and pieces will take to develop. Now that seems easy, but estimating how long the bits and pieces will take is not as simple as it seems.

Over- and Under-estimating Effort

Let’s look at Parkinson’s Law. It says that “Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.” If the task ends up being easy, then we will waste time and work less hard. Read the Complete Article

It’s a Plan, Not a Grocery List

It’s a Plan, Not a Grocery List
By Kerry Wills

Creating a project plan is an art; it really is. A plan should be a facilitated inventory of all deliverables with associated activities organized in such a way as to be tracked and communicated at a granular level. Let’s look at each of those components…

  • A facilitated inventory – The PM should gather all information from the team who should be the expert in the project. This also involves them and gives the team a sense of ownership over the plan.
  • Deliverables and associated activities – Plans should be organized around deliverables and activities to perform the work.

  • Organizated in such a way as to track – Deliverables should have milestones that are able to be tracked. This does not mean having 40 day long tasks. Milestones should be 5-10 days and able to be tracked.

  • Communicated – A plan has to be organized logically and be clean so a project manager can communicate it effectively to the team.
Read the Complete Article

Project Schedule and Cost Estimating – Part 1

Project Schedule and Cost Estimating – Part 1
By Martin Webster

There can’t be a crisis next week. My schedule is full. – Henry Kissinger

Project schedule and cost estimating are very important activities. Among other things the schedule tells the project manager how long it will take to complete the project (or any part of it.) It’s also the basis for preparing cost and resource plans. But the problem with estimating is this. When formulating plans at the beginning of a project there is usually insufficient information to estimate with any degree of accuracy. Yet the project manager will face demands to know how long the project will take and how much the project will cost. Worse still the project manager is almost certainly expected to meet publicized delivery dates regardless of their legitimacy.

What do you do? Perhaps you stick a finger in the air and hope for the best or base your estimate on past performance and experience. Read the Complete Article

Effective Sequence Planning And Time Scheduling For Projects

Effective Sequence Planning And Time Scheduling For Projects
By Hauke Borow

In the previous articles you’ve learned something about the nature of projects and the management of them.

I’ve told you that a project is always located in 3 dimensions: quality, resources and time.

The project structure plan tells you what has to be done in your project in form of work packages. It defines the quality which means the content of your project.

The project structure plan is also the basis for further necessary plannings because obviously it is not enough to have an idea about just the quality of your work packages.

It’s essential to analyze the duration of the work packages and the sequence in which they have to be executed in order to be able to calculate the corresponding start and end dates.

This step requires a mergence of the 3 dimensions quality, resources and time. Sequence planning and time scheduling represent such a mergence. Read the Complete Article

Enough is Enough: Planning is Important, But…

Enough is Enough: Planning is Important, But…
By Ben Snyder, CEO of Systemation

Over and over we hear how inadequate we are in planning our projects. Lots of people judge it to be this way because they think project managers do not know how to plan. Supposed experts say we need to be more rigorous in our planning. As a result, templates and forms are beefed up to give the impression of planning strength but really don’t produce any tangible value.

Two misunderstandings need to be considered when evaluating our planning success. The first overarching misunderstanding is that projects should be completed just as they are planned. This never happens and thinking it is possible is living in a fantasy land. The second misunderstanding is that people do not spend time planning because they don’t know how to or lack a rigorous process. Most people actually do know how to plan but like to design and build (produce) more than they like to plan and analyze (prepare). Read the Complete Article

Project Management Foundations – Performing Resource Analysis and Creating the Resource Plan

Project Management Foundations – Performing Resource Analysis and Creating the Resource Plan
By Steve Hart

In a previous article, I talked about resource loading your project schedule (estimating the resource needs, and loading resource estimates into your project schedule). Before you call your project schedule “complete”, it is a best practice to perform resource analysis & leveling, and create the resource plan. The resource plan is utilized to confirm the project resource assignments with resource managers, and it is a direct input to creating the labor component of the project budget.

Again the best practices areas associated with resource planning are:

  • How to estimate the resource requirements for schedule activities
  • How to load the resource assignments and work effort estimates into the project schedule
  • How to perform resource usage analysis, and resource leveling techniques
  • How to create the resource plan utilized to finalize resource assignments, and provide a key input to create the project budget

This article is focused on the last two – performing resource analysis & creating the resource plan

Resource Analysis & Leveling

The first decision to make when performing resource analysis is what is the proper time period to use for resource usage optimization. Read the Complete Article

Project Management Foundations – Estimating and Loading Resources

Project Management Foundations – Estimating and Loading Resources
By Steve Hart

One of the common pitfalls I often run across when reviewing project schedules is inadequate attention or diligence around the area of resource planning. Improper planning in this best practice area often leads to project schedules and budgets that may not be reasonable or manageable. The following summarizes the high level best practice areas associated with resource planning:

  • How to estimate the resource requirements for schedule activities.
  • How to load the resource assignments and work effort estimates into the project schedule.
  • How to perform resource usage analysis, and resource leveling techniques.
  • How to create the resource plan utilized to finalize resource assignments, and provide a key input to create the project budget.

For purposes of this article, I will focus on the first two — estimating resources and loading the resource assignments into the project schedule.

Resource Estimating

There are two techniques for resource estimating – bottom up & resource allocation. Read the Complete Article

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Recommended PM App

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