Project Smart ~ Exploring trends and developments in project management today

Calendar iconNot recorded
Adobe PDF icon

Project Management: Time Estimates and Planning

~ By Liz Cassidy

Clock and calendar

Accurate time estimation is a skill essential for good project management. It is important to get time estimates right for two main reasons:

  1. Time estimates drive the setting of deadlines for delivery and planning of projects, and hence will impact on other peoples assessment of your reliability and competence as a project manager.
  2. Time estimates often determine the pricing of contracts and hence the profitability of the contract/project in commercial terms.

Often people underestimate the amount of time needed to implement projects. This is true particularly when the project manager is not familiar with the task to be carried out. Unexpected events or unscheduled high priority work may not be taken into account. Project managers also often simply fail to allow for the full complexity or potential errors and stuff ups, involved with a project. The 2004-2006 Wembley Stadium project in London is often used as an example, although there are countless others of less profile.

Time estimates are important as inputs into other techniques used to organise and structure all projects. Using good time estimation techniques may reduce large projects to a series of smaller projects.

Step 1: Understand the Project Outcome

First you need to fully understand what it is you need to achieve. (Refer to my article; Project Management - Begin with the end in mind). Review the project/task in detail so that there are no "unknowns." Some difficult-to-understand, tricky problems that take the greatest amount of time to solve. The best way to review the job is to just list all component tasks in full detail.

Step 2: Estimate Time

When you have a detailed list of all the tasks that you must achieve to complete the project then you can begin to estimate how long each will take.

Make sure that you also allow time for project management administration, detailed project, liaison with outside bodies resources and authorities, meetings, quality assurance developing supporting documentation or procedures necessary, and training.

Also make sure that you have allowed time for:

  • Other high urgency tasks to be carried out which will have priority over this one.
  • Accidents and emergencies.
  • Internal/external meetings.
  • Holidays and sickness in key staff/stakeholders.
  • Contact with other customers, suppliers and contractors.
  • Breakdowns in equipment.
  • Missed deliveries by suppliers.
  • Interruptions by customers, suppliers, contractors, family, pets, co-workers, etc.
  • Others priorities and schedules e.g. local government planning processes.
  • Quality control rejections, etc.
  • Unanticipated events (e.g. renovating the bathroom finding white-ants/termites in the walls).

These factors may significantly lengthen the time and cost needed to complete a project.

If the accuracy of time estimates is critical, you will find it effective to develop a systematic approach to including these factors. If possible, base this on past experience. In the absence of your own past experience, ask someone who has already done the task or project to advise what can go wrong; what you need to plan for; and how long each task took previously.

You can lose a great deal of credibility, and money, by underestimating the length of time needed to implement a project. If you underestimate time, not only do you miss deadlines, you can also put other people under unnecessary stress.

Step 3: Plan for it Going Wrong

Finally, allow time for all the expected and unexpected disruptions and delays to work that will inevitably happen. Sickness, strikes, materials not available, poor quality work, bureaucratic bungling, etc.


Liz Cassidy, founder of Third Sigma International is an author, Speaker, Trainer and Executive and Performance Coach dedicated to facilitating results in the businesses, professional and personal lives of her clients. For more information www.thirdsigma.com.au


Comments

Be the first to comment on this article.

Add a comment



(never displayed)



 
1500
Enter the third letter of the word castle.
Notify me of new comments via email.
Remember my form inputs on this computer.

My Story: Working Smarter; Not Harder

Woman thinking with a light bulb drawn on a blackboard

When you realise that you have the power to change your beliefs and remove a limiting factor that has been constraining you, you have an AHA! moment.

Project Planning a Step by Step Guide

Businessman finding the solution to a maze

The key to a successful project is in the planning. Creating a project plan is the first thing you should do when undertaking any kind of project.

PMP Exam Day Tips

PMI logo

Tips for passing the PMP Exam that should help calm your nerves and ensure success.

Top 10 Steps to Successful Goals

Businessman sprinter winning a track race

Help avoid the great 'Rinse and Repeat Trap' by following these 10 steps to setting successful goals. You may have to work for it, however!

PROJECT SMART is the project management resource that helps managers at all levels improve their performance. We provide an important knowledge base for those involved in managing projects of all kinds. With weekly exclusive updates, we keep you in touch with the latest project management thinking.

WE ARE CONNECTED ~ Follow us on social media to get regular updates and opinion on what's happening in the world of project management.


Latest Comments

Samara Grantham commented on…
12 Tips for Being a Good Manager
- Thu 1 December 2:46pm

Adolfina commented on…
Introduction to Project Management
- Mon 21 November 9:52am

Edward Brown commented on…
Project Status Reports Everyone Can Understand
- Wed 16 November 3:38pm

Latest tweets

November’s Top 10 Inbound Marketing Must-Reads https://t.co/uz0mRNbVzz about 9 hours ago

General Project Management • Re: Prioritising Change Requests https://t.co/hZ2PBgxtLN #projectsmart #pmot about 2 days ago

General Project Management • Re: Project Resource Challenges https://t.co/ITT5p6Pnje #projectsmart #pmot about 2 days ago