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Estimating is one of the most important parts of the planning process. Effort hours (man hours) must be estimated first, before duration and cost estimates can be prepared. Use the following ten steps to estimate effort hours.
  1. Determine how accurate your estimate needs to be Typically, the more accurate the estimate, the more detail you need to understand about the project, and perhaps the more time that is needed. If you are asked for a rough order of magnitude (ROM) estimate (-25% - +75%), you might be able to complete the work quickly, at a high level, and with a minimum amount of detail. On the other hand, if you must provide an accurate estimate within 10%, you need to spend more time and understand the work at a lower level of detail.
  2. Create the initial estimate of effort hours Estimate the work of the project using one or more estimating techniques (analogy, prior history, PERT, modeling, etc.). (These techniques will be described in a separate Tips email).
  3. (optional) Factor the effort hours based on the resources assigned Your estimates are probably based on the effort it will take an average resource to do the work (or perhaps the estimates are based on the effort it would take if you did the work). Sometimes you also have knowledge of the exact resource or the type of resource that will be assigned. If you do, you may want to factor the estimate up or down based on that resource.
  4. Add specialist resource hours Make sure you have included hours for part-time and specialty resources. This could include freelance people, training specialists, administrative help, etc. These are people that may not be obvious at first, but you may need them for special activities.  Because they are typically in project support roles, you may have forgotten to include their activities in the original Work Breakdown Structure.
  5. (optional) Add rework time In a perfect world, all project deliverables would be correct the first time. Rework is the result of flaws in your quality management process. It means that a deliverable that you thought was complete turns out to need more work. Some projects add in effort hours for rework, although this should be minimized.
  6. Add project management time Project management takes effort. A rule of thumb is to add 15% of the effort hours for project management. For instance, if a project estimate is 12,000 hours (7 - 8 people), then a full-time project manager (1800 hours) is needed.
  7. Add contingency hours Contingency is used to reflect the uncertainty or risk associated with the estimate. If you are asked to estimate work that is not well defined, you may add 50%, 75% or more to reflect the uncertainty. If the estimate was required on short notice, a large contingency may be required. Even if you have time to create a reasonably accurate estimate, your contingency may still be 10-25%. If you do not add a contingency amount, it would mean that you are 100% confident in your estimate. This may be the case if similar types of projects have been done before.
  8. Calculate the total effort Add up the estimates for all the work components described above.
  9. Review and adjust as necessary Sometimes when you add up all the components, the estimate seems obviously high or low. If your estimate does not look right, go back and make adjustments to your estimating assumptions to better reflect reality.  
  10. Document all assumptions You will never know all the details of a project for certain. Therefore, it is important to document all the assumptions you are making along with the estimate.

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Published in Blogs
Friday, 30 September 2011 14:46

Does Better Planning Drive Execution Success?


Both the failure and cost/schedule overruns of major CapEx projects receive a high degree of public and stakeholder scrutiny and publicity.  However, rarely is the corresponding planning quality and project management maturity given the same level of detailed investigation.   Arguably, focus is generally given to the result of failure without also considering the root cause.

As such, this white paper is the result of a research project[1] that was carried out during the summer of 2011 to investigate the relationship, if any, between project planning quality and project execution success. In other words, this project set out to determine if poor planning results in project cost and schedule overruns and conversely, does sound planning help ensure on time and successful project completion?

Published in Blogs

This is part 4 of a series of blog posts in which I look at the components of a PMO and give you a pragmatic way to increase your PMO success and improve your PM maturity.

Every company has some form of special tools that project managers and project team members use in their day to day project activities. A few examples:

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This is part 3 of a series of blog posts in which I look at the components of a PMO and give you a pragmatic way to increase your PMO success and improve your PM maturity.

It is quite important that your Project Management Office has a policy about how your project teams collaborate with each other and where project documents go.

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This is part 2 of a series of blog posts in which I look at the components of a PMO and give you a pragmatic way to increase your PMO success and improve your PM maturity.

The Project Portfolio Management (PPM) Application is an important component of your Project Management Office (PMO).

Published in Blogs

Project Management Offices (PMOs) have always been a passion of mine. I have also had the good fortune to be working in several companies where the project management maturity was in its infancy and a PMO had to be built. This gave me the opportunity to help create 3 PMOs from the ground up. This didn't just teach me a lot it also created my passion for everything PMO. I can't explain why, the assignment of creating a PMO for a company, rolling out our creation and then seeing how it improves the company's overall approach to how we manage projects is something that gives me enormous pleasure.

Published in Blogs

There is an interesting article posted on PM Forum titled UK Survey Reveals Top Three Reasons Why Web Projects Fail. The results of this survey are not surprising at all. In fact you have heard this before: scope creep, failure to meet stakeholder expectations and cost / schedule overruns are the top three reasons for web project failure. What I found enlightening about this particular article is the following statement by Damien Tanner, Co-founder of New Bamboo who said, "It is critical to get the basics right. If companies are willing to accept failings in the development process for smaller projects, there is a real chance they may not revise their processes before tackling more ambitious projects [...] These failings are set to become more prominent as companies want to develop more complex projects or bespoke solutions to unique business needs - such as social networking, e-commence and interactive elements with their customers.".

Published in Blogs
Sunday, 15 June 2008 19:06

Dramatization - Do Not Attempt

Today, a TV program I watched was interrupted by a commercial. It showed a woman sitting on a chair holding a $5 bill in her hands. She then stuck that note into her mouth an began eating it. At that moment, the words "Dramatization. Do not attempt." popped up at the bottom of the screen. While I find this to be a hilarious result of the litigious culture here in the US it also got me thinking about project management. There are so many great books and methodologies available to us project managers, but somehow, the best practices that are described don't make it into most of our daily lives? Why is that?

Published in Blogs
Sunday, 15 June 2008 19:06

What ARE Soft Skills?

Margaret Meloni started an interesting discussion over at IT Toolbox. She asked: "I have a question for you. If you signed up for a class called 'Soft Skills for Project Managers', what would you expect to learn? What would you want to learn?" She received quite a number of responses, many of them extremely thoughtful and with a lot of good explanations.

Published in Blogs

At least once every moth will I come across a message in a newsgroup or forum that talks about the fact that "PMP Application audits are NOT random. A friend of a friend of mine told me that the PMI looks at your application and based on the profile you will get audited." These are worthless speculations. Here is why and how you should approach this instead.

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