Project Management

Back to PM Basics (Part 6): How Long Will My Project Take?

Following 20 years at a large Canadian telecommunications firm, Bruce established the project management consulting firm Solutions Management Inc (SMI). Since 1999, he has provided contract project/program management services, been a source for project management support personnel and created/delivered courses to over 7,000 participants in Canada, the United States and England.

As we move to the sixth article of building a foundation of project management knowledge, the focus shifts to the second stage of building a project plan. In Part 5, the importance of clear scope definition was addressed. This article will address:

  • Differentiating effort vs. duration
  • Estimating techniques to determine how long work will take to complete

How long will the project take? A 2-step answer
With the project-related work (scope) fully defined, a project manager can progress to determining how long the work will take to complete. Often, during the initiating stage, a preliminary estimate for the duration of a project is established. Unfortunately, the estimates are often based on either a long list of assumptions or optimistic expectations.

It’s during the planning phase of the project the project manager utilizes a variety of tools to accurately estimate the project end date. When the total project duration estimate is complete, the project manager returns to the sponsor to ensure the revised date is acceptable. If the sponsor does not accept the revised date, tradeoffs (such as reducing the scope or increasing costs) will have to be considered.

Determining the project end date involves:

  1. Accurately estimating how long each work package will take to complete
  2. Sequencing the work in the optimal way so as to maximize efficiencies

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Necessity is the mother of taking chances.

- Mark Twain