Sometimes estimation leaves you in a fog!

Sometimes estimation leaves you in a fog!

When I recently asked a group of people the question “What are the two largest issues in project estimation?”, I received a wide range of answers. The range of answers is probably a reflection of the range of individuals answering.  Five macro categories emerged from the answers. They are:

  1. Requirements. The impact of unclear and changing requirements on budgeting and estimation was discussed in detail in the entry, Requirements: The Chronic Problem with Project Estimation.  Bottom line, change is required to embrace dynamic development methods and that change will require changes in how the organization evaluates projects.
  2. Estimate Reliability. The perceived lack of reliability of an estimate can be generated by many factors including differences in between development and estimation processes. One of the respondents noted, “most of the time the project does not believe the estimate and thus comes up with their own, which is primarily based on what they feel the customer wants to hear.”
  3. Project History. Both analogous and parametric estimation processes use the past as an input in determining the future.  Collection of consistent historical data is critical to learning and not repeating the same mistakes over and over.  According to Joe Schofield, “few groups retain enough relevant data from their experiences to avoid relearning the same lesson.”
  4. Labor Hours Are Not The Same As Size.  Many estimators either estimate the effort needed to perform the project or individual tasks.  By jumping immediately to effort, estimators miss all of the nuances that effect the level of effort required to deliver value.  According to Ian Brown, “then the discussion basically boils down to opinions of the number of hours, rather that assessing other attributes that drive the number of hours that something will take.”
  5. No One Dedicated to Estimation.  Estimating is a skill built on a wide range of techniques that need to be learned and practiced.  When no one is dedicated to developing and maintaining estimates it is rare that anyone can learn to estimate consistently, which affects reliability.  To quote one of the respondents, “consistency of estimation from team to team, and within a team over time, is non-existent.”

 

Each of the top five issues are solvable without throwing out the concept of estimation that are critical for planning at the organization, portfolio and product levels.  Every organization will have to wrestle with their own solution to the estimation conundrum. However the first step is to recognize the issues you face and your goals from the estimation process.

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