Project Management

Estimation in the Era of Continuous Change

Andy Jordan is President of Roffensian Consulting S.A., a Roatan, Honduras-based management consulting firm with a comprehensive project management practice. Andy always appreciates feedback and discussion on the issues raised in his articles and can be reached at [email protected] Andy's new book Risk Management for Project Driven Organizations is now available.

Developing work estimates has long been one of the cornerstones of project planning. Defining the work required to deliver the scope, breaking that work down into the various tasks, and applying appropriate estimation techniques for each of those tasks has long been the foundation of work assignments, schedules and various other elements of the project plan.

The advantage of this approach was that it gave a fairly precise (although not always accurate) project plan that allowed stakeholders to understand how work would proceed. The disadvantage was the amount of time it took and the complexity of the outcome—one of the major reasons why incorporating an approved change request was a complex task.

As projects move away from the concept of well-defined, stable scopes in favor of a more fluid outcome-based mandate, this highly structured approach to estimation can’t survive. Projects are expected to deliver in less time and to incorporate changes with minimal or no disruption, so a bottom-up estimation technique is clearly not appropriate.

But we still need some form of estimation. We still need to have some validation that the allocated resources can complete all of the work within the available time. How do we do that?

Start with what is needed
Let’s start our consideration of estimating by considering what we actually need from those estimates. …

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