Monday, July 09, 2012

Comprehensive Project Estimation

Estimation is a critical planning activity in the life cycle of a project. With the IT industry and engineering processes still considerably immature, estimation still continues to be a challenge. "It is based on estimations that budgets and commitments are made." Standish Group Research, in their latest edition, reports that more than 50% projects overshoot their estimates. What could be the reason? Well, in my thought, this is because project managers focus only on effort estimation. Various aspects like size, effort, schedule, cost, and so on need to be considered for comprehensive estimation.

The below listed points bring out some salient features of comprehensive estimation:
  • The Size of the application provides a sense of estimates. The industry provides a variety of techniques to estimate the size based on project types (like development, maintenance and so on). Development projects make use of FP or cosmic FFP to estimate the size of the application to be developed. Use-case based estimation is also used in some cases. FTE estimation is widely used in a maintenance scenario. More recently, NESMA FP is being used for the same purpose.

  • Effort Estimation considers the productivity and size. Selection of the right productivity data determines the success factor. This productivity depends on various factors - such as people skills, process maturity, and so on. Every organization has to come up with standard productivity data for every variant of project type. They have to make use of the past data and organizational skills set and decide on the target productivity.

  • Estimation of the Right Timeframe (Schedule) for the execution of the project is a key facet in estimation. The schedule for a project needs to include factors - such as people leveling, critical path identification, applying crashing or fast- tracking appropriately, and so on. Identifying all important activities form the key to the success of this activity.

  • Cost Estimation not only includes the effort cost, but also involves various cost factors associated with the life cycle of the project for budget. Budgeting becomes an important activity during the course of the project. Every modification to a requirement requires proper analysis of impact right from size to cost.

Though the above points paint a comprehensive picture, there are other dimensions as well. For example, defect estimation, based on a prediction model, helps the project management to perform objective gating during the course of the project. It may also happen that after defect estimation, the project manager would like to revisit the effort estimation or schedule estimation. Hence, the comprehensive estimation revolves in a cycle, considering all these aspects hand-in-hand. Once the cycle is stabilized, the estimation is recorded and validated with all stakeholders.

Monitoring these estimates happens to be yet another activity throughout all the life cycle phases, as a means to understand and predict risks effectively. Any variation from estimations have to be identified, analyzed and acted upon at the right time, so as to ensure success of the project. A well planned project is half complete. Comprehensive estimation paves the way for the execution of a well planned project. To know more details on comprehensive estimation, please enroll into the Sceda Systems' Certification for IT Project Management. This course covers the topic in-depth, providing IT related examples and case studies.

Technology Integration Lab
Sceda Systems

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