Estimating Effort Part 5 In this final article, I will cover a variety of topics related to estimating. These include how to deal with poorly defined work and what you should do if management believes it should take less time or cost less. We will be focusing our discussion on estimating effort for one activity that is reasonably well-defined. This type of work is acceptable in certain project environments. However, it is unlikely that most projects will have much work to estimate. These situations will be addressed in this section. This type of work is not something that any member of the team has done before. These are some suggestions that might help:

  • You should find someone with experience, such as a consultant or someone from the organization, who is not on your team.
  • To reflect greater uncertainty, use a wider range estimate. Your overall project budget won’t be affected unless the unknown work is a significant portion of the total work. We are open to budget variances in individual work items, as long as they do not affect the overall project budget.
  • Break down the work into smaller pieces. You will often find that you have experience with a lot of the work. You can handle the aspects you don’t have experience with with a wider range of estimates.
  • Get some experience. One or two members of the team might be able to do a few?practice? activities. It may be possible to have one or two team members do a few?practice? activities as part the project planning process. This approach was used successfully in a database conversion project I did several years ago.

This is truly state of the art stuff. Please refer to the previous paragraph, particularly the last bullet. We don’t really know what is required, or we don’t have enough information at this time to define the work. These two complaints are not estimating issues. They can be either a scoping or risk management issue. They could also be used as a defensive response to a skeptical manger. If this is the case, please see below. Conflicting Estimates Have you ever had two members of your team who were very different in their estimates of the effort required to complete a task? It is possible to use range estimates, especially if the individuals involved tend to be optimistic or pessimistic. It is often easier to reach an agreement if their ranges overlap. The root cause of these differences is most likely to be conflicting assumptions. A team member who believes that design work from the past can be reused will give a lower estimate than someone who doesn’t believe so. The team can bring up the conflicts and discuss the options before deciding what to do. One assumption that is universally accepted is the skill level of those doing the work. Senior staff often estimate by asking?how much effort would it take to complete this task? This will likely result in a lower estimate. They may also be aware of their tendency overestimate or overcompensate. It is important to remind estimators to always assume an?average? It is important to remind your estimators to always assume an?average? resource. They should also recognize that it may take 2-3 projects to compare actuals with estimates before they can be able to determine what?average?. Converting effort into duration Converting effort into duration I am sure that this point will get me a lot of criticism from my colleagues. Technically, you should do exactly that to estimate the duration. Take the effort estimates and create a three-point range estimation of the work item’s duration. If the effort estimate is 30, 40, and 80 hours, it seems reasonable to assume that this person will need to work full-time on the project for more than two weeks. If it takes 80 hours, it would take 80 hours. In