Making Realistic Time and Cost Estimates

Making Realistic Time and Cost Estimates

Workshop Overview:
Project plans are based on time and cost estimates. But, all estimates are uncertain, yet we do a very poor job of taking this uncertainty into account. Past performance may be known (if it was documented), the present is obscured by its immediacy, and the future is just the best guess. This problem is evident from the results of the Chaos Report where over 50% of all IT projects fail to meet their goals; from results of government studies showing large cost and time overruns; and from other studies showing the descoping projects to meet the cost and time goals.

How do you make estimates: Make your best guess and add 15%? One government agency did this and found that they still missed their cost estimates, sometimes by as much as a factor of three. Or, do you make estimates by asking many “knowledgeable” colleagues what they think and then averaging?  This works if all are in agreement, but what about the outlier? Is she just wrong and should be ignored?  Or, do you make estimates by aiming low and asking for more resources later? The “Big-Dig” in Boston did this and over-ran cost estimates by 275%.

Most organizations doom their projects to missed targets. Missing targets is not a management issue, but an estimation issue and most do a weak job of making estimates. There are methods to ask experts to make estimates and techniques for managing their uncertain best guesses. But these are not well known, nor often applied leading to poor results.  This workshop addresses the best practices for generating and using project time and cost estimates.

Workshop Outcomes:
This highly interactive session will provide:

  • How to make the best possible estimates for time and cost
  • How to make the best use of past information
  • How to ask for projections
  • How to combine uncertain information

Workshop Key Topics:

  • Often wrong but never in doubt
  • Don’t kill the messenger
  • Collecting and using uncertain information
  • Collecting and fusing multiple estimates
  • Using worry lists to understand cost and schedule risks
  • Using simple tools to model estimates
  • Buffering critical paths

Workshop Length: 2 days
Can be customized to needs of participants


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