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


Advertisement


Comments

Be the first to comment on this article.

Add a comment



(never displayed)



 
2000
What is the sum of 1 + 4 + 4?
Notify me of new comments via email.
Remember my form inputs on this computer.

12 Tips for Being a Good Manager

Businessman revealing the inner superhero

Keeping a project management team running smoothly can be a challenge, especially when budgets are lean and expectations are high.

Managing The Project Time

Man pointing at an alarm clock

Project managers should know the iron triangle of project management, sometimes called the triple constraints of project management, because all projects are constrained by these elements.

Building Your Project Team

Friendly successful project team of young executives

How should you set about choosing people for your project and forming them into a well functioning project team?

Effort Estimating: A Primer

Effort time money blue dice representing the ingredients for business

Good estimating is a skill like any other, it can be developed with practice to the point where it may seem like magic to the uninformed.

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

Pani Tararo commented on…
SMART Goals
- Sat 22 April 12:58am

Cheryl commented on…
The Role of the Project Manager
- Thu 20 April 2:36pm

Dr. Nishikant Bohra commented on…
Who is the Project Manager?
- Thu 20 April 8:00am

Latest tweets

General Project Management • Advice needed https://t.co/U13hM1ZzWn #projectsmart #pmot about 8 hours ago

General Project Management • Earned Value Management https://t.co/nPmCyMEAl0 #projectsmart #pmot about 5 days ago

General Project Management • Techniques and Methods for Managing Project Portfolio https://t.co/yhvLP4cTUJ #projectsmart #pmot about 9 days ago