Used correctly, estimation can provide a solid foundation for making good decisions throughout a project’s lifecycle. Moreover, it can be an excellent source of critical information for the IT department, CIOs, project managers, VP’s, and others.
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||Estimation & Project Planning Challenges
Many factors can influence the outcome of an IT project; two of the most important determinants are upfront planning and estimation. Yet, these are often challenging for many companies. And for good reason; accurately gauging the project’s effort, schedule, cost and resource requirements can be difficult.
Statistics constantly point to the challenges surrounding effective planning and estimation - over 66% of projects aren’t delivered on time, on budget or to expected quality. Sobering figures, but looking beyond these facts, what are the symptoms and implications for project managers, leaders, and teams?
Underestimating a project can lead to under staffing, under scoping the quality assurance effort, and setting too short a schedule. This negatively impacts staff productivity, product quality, customer relationships and overall credibility. Conversely, overestimating a project can be just as detrimental. Since most projects expand to fit their estimated schedule, allocating appropriate resources to future projects can quickly become an issue, creating scheduling bottle necks and planning difficulties.
Good software estimation and planning goes beyond tools, techniques and processes. It’s also about the right attitude, understanding and mutual expectations -- not just from the software developers but also from senior management. When we understand together what can be done, what has been done, and what is being put before us, we can successfully plan projects to make them more predictable.
Given that most project estimates aren’t accurate and project planning equally suffers, can software development organizations realistically expect their projects to go against the norm and finish within their allotted schedules and budgets? They definitely should and by working with Software Productivity Center (SPC) they can!
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||Getting Better at Estimation & Project Planning
A well crafted estimate creates many benefits:
- alignment between business objectives and technical estimates
- more informed business decision making
- reliable project delivery dates
- improved communication between management and the project team
- controlled project costs, and
- satisfied customers
For the business, this can translate into enhanced market competitiveness.
SPC is a leading provider of technology and management services to Fortune 1000 and medium-sized enterprises wanting to realize the full business potential of their software development process.
SPC’s consultants and experts focus on enabling our clients to create lasting improvements in their estimation and planning practices. Since 1992, we’ve worked with more than 1,000 clients across the globe, including companies such as Express Scripts Inc., Business Objects, Kodak Graphic Communications Canada Company, KeyBank, State Farm Insurance, American Student Association (ASA), DaimlerChrysler Services North America LLC, Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (ICBC), Custom House and Borland Corporation to positively impact their development organization.
Our approach to project estimation and project planning is designed to enable you to work smarter, not harder. Collaborating with SPC will make estimation and planning significantly easier for everyone involved, enabling on time, on budget delivery of high quality products.
||Top Tips for Estimation
Solving the project estimation and planning challenge in a sensible, straightforward manner is the mark of the SPC approach. Instead of a “one-size-fits-all” design that most consulting firms utilize, our consulting, coaching and mentoring services work in context with our clients’ culture and experience.
Most importantly, we carefully analyze the most pressing needs that need to be answered to ensure a high value, high impact experience.
- Integrate estimation into the overall development process
The first step in any improvement strategy is understanding where you are. Map out your current development process and identify the points in this process where estimation reasonably fits to provide maximum benefit.
- Design an estimation procedure to fit your culture
A standard estimation procedure is critical to creating reasonable estimates in a repeatable fashion across the organization. Establish a procedure that reflects the value of the estimate it produces.
- Mine historical information to tune your estimation capability
Historical information from past projects is an important source of data to improve estimation practices for future initiatives.
- Apply specific estimation techniques
Applying specific estimation techniques can greatly improve the efficiency of your estimation practices. Understanding where the various techniques fit into the overall process lifecycle and the pros and cons of each is key to identifying those techniques that make up your standard estimation procedure.
- Adjusting project scope to available budget and resources
Successful projects are do-able from the outset. Develop a realistic trade-off analysis of project scope versus budget and resources (based on a thorough understanding of the implications of high versus low project estimates.)
- Practical project planning
A clear project direction and definition can positively impact all stakeholders through improved predictability and repeatability. A practical project plan should address:
- critical path/scheduling
- the work breakdown structure
- resource leveling, and relationships
- dependencies and assumptions
By creating a defined and agreed project baseline, you will have the basis for managing change and communicating its impact.
Establishing and nurturing sound estimation and planning practices is the first step to consistently delivering predictable and reliable projects. By working with SPC, you can easily create clear and sustainable processes, develop exceptional technical, management and leadership skills, and build an environment that fosters confidence, cooperation and success both within the development team and across departmental groups. The impact on your estimation and planning practices will fundamentally change your business for the better.
Learn more about how SPC’s consulting services can optimize your planning and estimation practices.