Saturday, 6 August 2016

How to make estimates come out the way you want (don’t fool yourself) - From Agile 101 book

Now, let’s hear a quick story about how we fool ourselves when somebody requests a quote for a job. It may have happened to you at some point.

A client has requested a quote. He has an idea in mind and wants to know how much it will cost and how long will it take. He made some calculations in his head and comments briefly on the numbers he is considering.

You arrive to your office and meet with the experts in these types of projects. After mulling it over for quite a bit you agree on how long it will take and the level of difficulty. You’ve had to do a little convincing, so they’re not so overly cautious, because after all it doesn’t look like a difficult project.

However, the final quote reached is way higher than the client had foreseen. Furthermore, if that vision were to be true, the project would not be finished by the deadline . You’ll need to reduce that estimate by at least 50%. Here’s how to do that in 5 easy steps:

You’ve done this before. You’ll be faster this time. You’ve carried out similar projects on other occasions, so you’ve surely learned from your mistakes. Also the problems that came up other times won’t necessarily happen this time (10% less). Are you sure you won’t have some new problems?
The clients said they wanted something simple. It won’t be that hard to do.

We’ll do something basic —we’ll cut on the complex stuff (10% less). The clients know their business well and it’s easy for them, but, what about you? Do you know everything you need to know about their business?

We’ll really keep a eye on costs. Some other projects weren’t monitored very closely, but this time you’ll be especially watchful of every hour spent, and you won’t let costs go through the roof (10% less).

We’ll put our best technicians on it. It’s a major project for an important client. We’ll put our best people on it (10% less, even though you don’t know whether they’ll be available on the date you need them).

We’ll make an extra effort.
If push came to shove, and we saw we were about to miss the deadline, we would ask every stakeholder to make an additional effort for a few weeks. If it’s necessary, we’ll even add some extra technicians halfway through so we can finish on time (10% less). Remember Brooks’ Law: adding extra staff to a project that’s late will only delay it even more.

And there we are. With just a little bit more work, we’ve been able to cut the initial estimate by 50%. Actually, to make the estimate match the budget, we’ve convinced ourselves that we can do the work in half the time. Sad to say, stats show that software projects take an average of 120% more time than initially estimated, and that final costs are normally 100% more than was budgeted at first.


You can find texts like this and many other about how to manage agile projects in my book Agile 101: Practical Project Management (available on Amazon).


Translation by Begoña Martínez. You can also find her on her LinkedIn profile. Proofreading by David Nesbitt.

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