Project Management

All In: Collaborative Estimates

Laura Zuber

A transparent, collaborative estimation process that engages stakeholders can minimize project overruns caused by unrealistic schedule and budget expectations. It depends on metrics collection, analysis, risk comparison, and a structure for sharing the right information with the right people at the right time.

“Failure to deliver within our estimate is an estimating failure, not a production failure.” — Tom DeMarco, “Why Does Software Cost So Much?”

Software development is a process of discovery, so project cost, schedule, scope and quality must be estimated — development is not manufacturing. Requirements analysis and design are part of the product development life cycle, thus most of the work in determining what to do (scope) and how to do it come after the project has started.

The problem is that projects commit to unrealistic schedule and budget expectations, due to little or no information about the size and scope or productivity. Yet the business reality is that projects must be estimated early in the life cycle to support business goals and strategic planning. What ends up happening is that project stakeholders agree to unrealistic commitments, because there is a false sense of precision in single value cost and schedule projects.

These challenges can be overcome with a transparent and collaborative estimation process. …

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