Estimation can be a really serious and difficult task. Not to mention that it is essential for an efficient performance and revenue/profitability. Since we are in the software business with APROPLAN, few of the customers raised the question: “Can the software help me with the estimation phase?” Well, yes. The worst thing is that it is getting harder if you are not feeling confident that you have the know how about the areas covered. Yes, you are right, templates and past models can help, but often can cause problems. That is why, today, I want to share with you 4 tactics that will help you get ahead, even before you started working on the estimation:
1. Eliminate Uncertainty
Usually you will find yourself in a situation where you don’t know what the project really contains as an amount of work. From my experience, please avoid estimating work you can’t predict or understand. You are not superman and that is okay. In order to fix this, do the following…
2. Borrow the expertise
You have to think like a hardcore manager now. The main question is what areas are critical? After pinpointing them, let’s find out which person is most reliable to fill in the gap. It is usually a good practice to look for estimating help from team members, clients, subject matter experts, etc. With this, you are getting great accuracy and also ownership of the activities that will come on-stage, later on. The other big benefit from this tactic is that you are taking any estimating constraints into account in advance. If you include client representatives and other partners in the estimation phase you will learn about their needs, perceptions, expectations and then manage them along the way. Of course, this will help you make valid assumptions regarding the cost, duration and quality balance.
3. Use 2 or 3 different estimating techniques
As you probably know, there are many estimation techniques that can be used. If you have enough resources, consider using 2 or 3 estimation techniques. This will give you bigger confidence in your numbers. If the estimates are far apart, you need to review the numbers to see if you are using similar assumptions, if you get similar numbers, then you are on the right track and have the right assumptions.
4. Be scientific
Document the conclusions, decisions and activities. A lot of stuff will change along the way and you need a blueprint to always come back and refer to. That is why you need to take your efforts on another level and write everything down so you can track your progress.
Software is only a tool. If we have the correct information and strategies, it can do wonders. To further educate you on estimation, here’s a link to an article that discusses an effective cost estimating strategy. Complement that with a practical guide on project cost estimation.