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)



 
2000
Type the numbers for two hundred thirty-one.
Notify me of new comments via email.
Remember my form inputs on this computer.

So You Want to Be a Project Manager

Businessman smiling with hands together

Not sure what skills it takes to become a Project Manager? This article lists the six key skills required to be a successful project manager.

The Mythical 50% Resource

Red blocks with the percent sign on a white background

Most managers of software development projects have had an encounter with a resource who is committed to their project some percentage of the time.

Helping Project Teams Succeed

Business team brainstorming using coloured labels on a table in an office

Project teams will be successful when the right environmental conditions exist; sadly this is not always the case.

Project Cost Management

Pile of British one pound coins

How do we know what a project will cost? We really don't until the project is complete because we can't accurately predict the future. What we can do is create an estimate.

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

Dr. Paul D. Giammalvo commented on…
7 Project Management Types and When to Use Them
- Tue 16 July 4:02am

Yasmin commented on…
Use Your Whole Brain: Leveraging Right-Brained Thinking in a Left-Brained World
- Wed 3 July 8:51am

Majaha commented on…
Introduction to Project Management
- Thu 13 June 8:51am

Latest tweets

General Project Management • Project Management Tutoring https://t.co/HYwT5D9rsX about 8 days ago

General Project Management • Project Management in Gaming Companies? https://t.co/yrlGkKjXLy about 8 days ago

RT @pmtips: Teresa Lawrence, on the question "How important is it for professionals that aspire to become project managers to acquire any o… about 8 days ago