Used correctly, estimation can provide a solid foundation for making good decisions throughout a project’s lifecycle. Moreover, it can be an excellent source of critical information for the IT department, CIOs, project managers, VP’s, and others.
Without reliable estimates, you will be challenged to:
Forecast productivity and quality
Control costs, meet delivery dates
Instill trust with management and peer-groups
Many factors can influence the outcome of an IT project; two of the most important determinants are upfront planning and estimation. Yet, these are often challenging for many companies. And for good reason; accurately gauging the project’s effort, schedule, cost and resourc e requirements can be difficult.
Underestimating a project can lead to under staffing, under scoping the quality assurance effort, and setting too short a schedule. This negatively impacts staff productivity, product quality, customer relationships and overall credibility.
Statistics constantly point to the challenges surrounding effective planning and estimation - over 66% of projects aren’t delivered on time, on budget or to expected quality. Sobering figures, but looking beyond these facts, what are the symptoms and implications for project managers, leaders, and teams?
Getting Better at Estimation
Improve estimation and planning practices:
Estimation is critical and requires adequate time
Present estimates to stakeholders effectively
Learn how to fully leverage an estimate
A well crafted estimate creates many benefits:
alignment between business objectives and technical estimates
more informed business decision making
reliable project delivery dates
improved communication between management and the project team
controlled project costs, and
Top Tips for Estimation
Some practical SPC(Software Productivity Center Inc.) advice you can put to use right away:
Estimation is integral to development & business processes
Your estimation approach should fit your culture
Apply rigor to create sound estimates - don’t rely on instinct!
Integrate estimation into the overall development process The first step in any improvement strategy is understanding where you are. Map out your current development process and identify the points in this process where estimation reasonably fits to provide maximum benefit.
Design an estimation procedure to fit your culture A standard estimation procedure is critical to creating reasonable estimates in a repeatable fashion across the organization. Establish a procedure that reflects the value of the estimate it produces.
Mine historical information to tune your estimation capability Historical information from past projects is an important source of data to improve estimation practices for future initiatives.
Apply specific estimation techniques Applying specific estimation techniques can greatly improve the efficiency of your estimation practices. Understanding where the various techniques fit into the overall process lifecycle and the pros and cons of each is key to identifying those techniques that make up your standard estimation procedure.
Adjusting project scope to available budget and resources Successful projects are do-able from the outset. Develop a realistic trade-off analysis of project scope versus budget and resources (based on a thorough understanding of the implications of high versus low project estimates.)
Practical project planning A clear project direction and definition can positively impact all stakeholders through improved predictability and repeatability. A practical project plan should address:
the work breakdown structure
resource leveling, and relationships
dependencies and assumptions
Critical thinking and unique observations on estimation best practices:
Fuzzy estimates can only lead to fuzzy project plans
Decisions on spending resources & money need good estimates
Accurate estimates help deliver software your business needs
The impact on your estimation and planning practices will fundamentally change your business for the better.