three pillars for the success of any project are cost, effort
and quality. The foundation of these pillars is based on estimation
technique used for the project. However, historically it has been
observed that lots of projects experience cost, effort and schedule
overrun or poor quality. In most of cases, the project end up taking
alternate paths to fulfil the budget constraint and ends up delivering
an inadequate product/application/service.
In this paper we will look at what could be the possible factors
affecting the foundation (i.e. estimation) of any project:
- Lack of knowledge on how to estimate and estimation techniques
- Adoption of inappropriate estimation methodologies
- Misinterpretation of available historical information
- Lack of information necessary for estimation
- Inadequate timeframe to perform estimates
- Insufficient experience in doing estimation for similar kind
We also attempt to address the above factors based on author's
vast experience in the field of project management and best practices
learned while working for Fortune 500 companies in the capacity
of project manager
Here are some Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and
Tangible top 11 lessons which would help in improving the estimation
- Institutionalise a culture to educate project teams
about estimation (techniques/tools).
- Encourage use of appropriate estimation techniques for different
phases of the project life cycle.
- Empower project manager to estimate and re-estimate after
every phase of the project life cycle (if necessary).
- Clearly defined guidelines for creating estimate baselines
should be in place.
- Every change request should be documented and estimated.
- Estimation once done, should not be considered as sacrosanct.
There should be provision to revise it if the circumstances
under which it was prepared for the first time change. (Refer
- Project needs and requirements should be documented in such
a way that inputs, outputs and process is defined. The clearer
the input, the better is the estimate.
- Leverage historical information about project's effort, schedule,
cost, risk, and resources which can be referred as lessons learned
/ best practices from engagements executed in the past. Statistical
baselines should be created for each factor affecting project
effort for e.g. user training effort baseline or project management
effort baseline. These statistical baselines should be revised
- Propagate the culture to define work packages and track time
against them diligently. (Project management tools should be
provided to do so)
- Every organization has influence on overall project effort
which should be considered while estimating the project timelines
as each organization has their own tried and tested way of executing
project based on their available skill set and capability with
- One aspect of project estimation which has been ignored most
of the time is size estimation which is very essential to measure
project performance, build baselines or perform comparative
analysis. Organizations should perform size estimate and use
organizational productivity baseline (per size unit) for estimating
It goes without saying that leaders should validate project performance
based against the plan and use metrics based on project estimates
(size, effort, cost and schedule) and actuals for decision making.
Risk management mechanism should be established / improved and
should capture risk occurrence information centrally for future
reference. Improved risk management will reduce uncertainties
(contingency factor) and hence will help to provide better estimates.
Leadership should also sponsor tools and techniques based on
estimation methodologies to check project health and decision
Improved estimation effectiveness will help business
- Make better investment decisions
- Generate more return on investment (ROI)
- Gain advantage over competitors by taking appropriate
and timely decisions
- More control over project execution
- Finally improve organizational productivity.
Essentially estimation effectiveness is nothing more than how
close your estimates are to actuals.
Mr. Rahul Sonje has over 7.5 years of total work experience in
the area of IT Consulting, Project Management and Software Quality.
He was with estimation Center of Excellence at the IT Process & Service
Management group, Global Consulting Practice, TCS. In his past
engagements, Rahul has implemented Microsoft enterprise project
management for fortune 500 companies. He has supervised projects
in the domain of web based application development & Business
Intelligence. He is also Six Sigma green belt certified and MCP
for SQL Server 2000. He brings with him multi-industry experience
having consulted and worked with organizations in IT, Financial
Services, Energy, Government and Media.
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Effective project estimation
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