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Common Project Manager Mistakes: #5 Assuming Estimates Can Be Right

Common Project Manager Mistakes: #5 Assuming Estimates Can Be Right
By Samuel T. Brown, III, PMP, Global Knowledge Course Director and Instructor

This article is part of a series. The previous article can be found here.

Estimating is fortune telling. When we estimate how long something will take or how much it will cost or how much resource will be needed, we are using the best information available to us and our experience to predict what is required for an event, activity or deliverable before we begin. This is self-evident, particularly when we see it in writing, but it belies assumptions that we usually fail to account for in the way we estimate or plan.

Since estimating is an attempt to predict a future event, it will never be done with consistent accuracy, and yet we often present our estimates to our stakeholders as if they were clear facts. Read the Complete Article

The Rock N’ Roll Of Project Management: Getting Your Facts Straight

The Rock N’ Roll Of Project Management: Getting Your Facts Straight
By Carl M. Manello

Facts are simple and facts are straight/ Facts are lazy and facts are late/ Facts all come with points of view/ Facts don’t do what I want them to. “Cross-eyed and Painless,” Talking Heads

Music, when composed and played well, is a joy. As I’m trying to teach myself how to play guitar, I’m learning that there is more to it than simply learning some chords and strumming patterns. Music theory, progressions, complex patterns, scales, and technique all come into play. Project management is similar. When a plan is well-defined and executed by a professional, experienced PM, the results can be a joy. But there is more to project management than creating a plan and managing due dates. Project management theory, base-lining, dependency management, resource loading, and soft skills also come into play.

I think the parallels between music and project management are interesting. Read the Complete Article

Software Estimates and How to Make Them

Software Estimates and How to Make Them
By Spencer Hoffman

When it comes to making software estimates, there are a few things you’ll want to understand first. In this post, we’ll go over some ways to make estimates, understand where they come from, and how they (usually) work in the land of software development. Let’s start with some things that often remain unspoken, but shouldn’t:

  1. Some people do not want estimates. They want unrealistic promises for purposes that have less to do with the project, and more to do with making themselves look good in the short-term (for a promotion, bonus, whatever.) If you’re in this situation, you need to go out-of-band with your communication about the project (i.e., above someone’s head.) If it’s a client, you might consider talking to another stakeholder, or even to that stakeholder’s boss. This is a delicate act, and needs to be done with great care.
Read the Complete Article

The Best Approach To Estimation Is To Use More Than One Technique!

The Best Approach To Estimation Is To Use More Than One Technique!
By Kiron D. Bondale

A logical question when approaching any new project is “What is the best technique to estimate project effort or costs?”.

Anyone who has taken a foundation course in project management will have been exposed to a large number of estimation methods including analogous, parametric and three-point estimates.

On most projects, particular techniques simply aren’t applicable. For example, on a highly unique project, parametric estimation may not be feasible since there would have been no past history to develop rules of thumb.

However, on most projects more than one estimation method is viable, especially once planning activities are well underway and scope definition and decomposition are substantially complete.

A common choice is to utilize a single, bottom-up estimation method. Occasionally, this bottom-up method is performed using three-point estimates for those activities with which the team has limited experience or confidence. Read the Complete Article

7 Tips When Estimating a Project

7 Tips When Estimating a Project
By Chrisitan Bisson

Estimating a project is a very important part of your project, and can often be taken lightly. Truth is, if you avoid having good estimates, you will likely have a hard time staying on budget, and during your project (or after), it may be hard to analyze why you are outside your budget.

There are some key tips that can help you with that:

  1. List what is being estimated

    Seems obvious at first glance, but bear with me. Listing what is being estimated is more than simply writing: Programming = 40h. If you review your estimate 6 months later, you will have absolutely no idea what was included inside that 40h.

    It is important to list each specific item of your project (home page, contact form, shopping cart, login,etc.).

    How detailed must you go? Detailed enough for you to be able to understand it in 6 months, but also, detailed enough to be able to estimate each item easily.

Read the Complete Article

How to Achieve Accurate Project Time and Cost Estimates

How to Achieve Accurate Project Time and Cost Estimates
By Paul A. Weber

What are Time & Cost estimates?

These are the project estimates in relation to how much time is required for your project. Cost is related to how much financial investment will be necessary for your project,

Why Time & Cost estimates are important?

I know you are thinking “This goes without saying”, but let’s explore this point anyway. Time and cost estimates are intertwined, because either one has a direct effect on the other. When determining the cost of a project, or a specific area of a project, time estimates are usually included, because time is literally money. Projects are not only cost determined based on material, but also according to the time estimated for project completion. This time is usually applied to the overall cost of the project because people get paid for the actually work they perform, but also the time taken to complete a task. Read the Complete Article

Estimating Is Often Helpful – Estimates Are Often Not

Estimating Is Often Helpful – Estimates Are Often Not
By Esther Derby

Recently, I tweeted, “Estimating is often helpful. Estimates are often not.”

Several people asked, “How can this be?” Let me say more, in more than 140 characters.

Estimating Is Often Helpful

  • Estimating helps when the process of estimating builds shared understanding among the people who want the work done and the people doing the work..
  • Collaborative estimating gives the best results. Diverse experience yields a broader range of perspectives and questions. Questions and perspectives build understanding of the what, why, and who related to the request. That’s helpful.

  • Group estimating reveals differences in knowledge and understanding. Finding those gaps early is helpful.

  • Group estimating surfaces assumptions. When we are aware of our assumptions, we can verify–or debunk– them.

  • When the group knows enough about the “what” to think about the “how,” they can analyze implementation. Working out implementation details reveals more assumptions, and generates more questions.

Read the Complete Article

How Accurate Is Your Actual vs. Planned Time and Costs?

How Accurate Is Your Actual vs. Planned Time and Costs?
By Peter Collins

With cost and efficiency dominating the corporate agenda in today’s constrained operating environment, the ability to compare and contrast planned versus actual time and costs provides professional services firms with greater visibility and tighter control of performance in billable markets where time is money.
By Peter Collins, director, Retain International

The ability to plan effectively is crucial for professional services firms operating in billable markets such as accounting, consultancy and law. But being able to allocate time and cost (of resources) with absolute confidence that financial and project targets will be met is difficult if resource planning tools and timesheet systems are being used in isolation, as they typically are today.

Timesheets provide an accurate view of the hours being billed at the end of each week or month, making it relatively straightforward to calculate the actual cost of resourcing a project and the revenue generated as a result. Read the Complete Article

Simple Guide to Quickly Sizing/Costing a Project Up Front

Simple Guide to Quickly Sizing/Costing a Project Up Front
By Neil Killick

  1. Identify high level requirements (epics and stories) and size them XS, S, M, L or XL (T-shirt sizes) so that each story in each category is roughly the same size (in terms of effort) as the other stories in that category
  2. Ensure that the XS stories are extremely small pieces of work that cannot be broken down any further (like a 5 minute change to the system) – if you do not have any of these, break down the S stories to ensure you have both XS and S stories

  3. Now have the project implementation team (i.e. developers, testers, analysts, etc. – not product/project managers) perform Fibonacci Planning Poker estimates (1,2,3,5,8) for 5 stories in each of the S, M, L and XL categories (we will assume all XS requirements are 1 point)

  4. If there are less than 5 stories in a category, or not many more, simply estimate all the cards for that category

  5. L or XL stories that are larger than 8 points should be made XXL and re-estimated including the 13, 21, 34, 55 and 89 point cards

  6. If you have estimated all stories in a category, simply total the points for that category, otherwise total the points for the 5 stories you have estimated, divide by 5 and then multiply by the total number of stories in the category (we can do this because we determined that the stories in a given category are roughly the same size)

    e.g.

Read the Complete Article

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.
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