Estimations done right: Proper Ways To Estimate

Proper Ways To Estimate
Proper Ways To Estimate

Estimating is an art that requires both skill and a strategic approach. It's a process that often involves trial and error, and even seasoned estimators can occasionally miss the mark. However, with the right mindset and proven techniques, you can significantly improve your estimations. In this article, we'll dive into the proper ways to estimate and unlock the secret to accurate estimations.

1. Embrace the Uncertainty

Estimating is not an exact science. You will often find yourself making mistakes, even after gaining years of experience. Accept that you won't always be accurate, and learn from your errors to improve over time. Also, remember that clients may not provide a clear, detailed project description. Take the initiative to ask for clarification and remove any ambiguity proactively. Ensure you clearly define the scope of work to avoid misunderstandings that can result in inaccurate estimates.

Always be aware of random factors that can disrupt your plans, such as sudden illness or project scope changes. Embrace the fact that estimates cannot account for every possible situation. Clear and active communication within the estimating team is crucial to avoid misinterpretations. Ensure that both the frontend and backend teams understand and estimate functionalities consistently. Don't hesitate to question assumptions and authority, as it is the key to accurate estimation. Remember, each project is unique, and your past experience may not perfectly reflect a new project's demands.

2. Strategic Approach

Estimating large and complex functionalities can feel overwhelming. To make the task more manageable, break them down into smaller, more easily estimable chunks. This approach allows for a more precise estimation of the time required for implementation. Moreover, it enables a detailed analysis of even the smallest elements within a complex functionality. By breaking down the project, you better understand its individual components, ensuring a more accurate estimate.

3. Strength in Collaboration

Your personal experiences and perspectives may differ greatly from others. Estimating on your own can lead to oversights or a focus on irrelevant aspects. Collaborating with at least two or more people helps minimize such pitfalls. Group estimates harness the collective expertise, diverse viewpoints, and team members' knowledge. Involving multiple individuals in the estimation process increases your chances of identifying crucial elements and avoiding underestimation.

4. Factor in Uncertainty

Uncertainty is an inherent part of any project. Instead of providing a fixed, single estimate, consider incorporating a range reflecting the degree of uncertainty. Ranged estimates allow for flexibility and account for unexpected challenges. It's better to overestimate than to underestimate the time and effort required for a task. By acknowledging the potential difficulty of the problem at hand, you can provide a more accurate and realistic estimation.

It's just a first step

Estimation is more than just a one-and-done task. It is important to understand that the initial estimate you provide is just a starting point. The estimation process should be iterative, allowing adjustments and refinements as the project progresses. As you gather more information, encounter unforeseen challenges, or gain a better understanding of the project's requirements, you can refine your estimates accordingly.

By recognizing that estimation is an ongoing process, you can respond to changes and adapt your plans as needed. Regularly review and reassess your estimates to ensure they remain accurate and aligned with the evolving project needs. Be open to revisiting and adjusting your estimates as new information becomes available.

Remember, project estimation is not about having a crystal ball to predict the future with absolute certainty. It is about using your expertise, collaborating with others, and continuously learning and improving your estimating skills. Embrace the iterative nature of estimation, and approach it as an opportunity for growth and refinement throughout the project lifecycle.

Let's summarise

To ensure accurate estimations, it is essential to follow a structured approach. Here are the key elements to consider:

  • Understand the Requirements: Begin by thoroughly understanding the project requirements and objectives. Engage in proactive communication with the client to ensure a clear and comprehensive understanding of the scope of work. Document all relevant details and ask clarifying questions where needed.
  • Break it Down: Divide the project into smaller, more manageable tasks or functionalities. Breaking down the project allows for a more detailed analysis of each component, making estimation more accurate and reliable. Consider the dependencies between tasks and account for any potential risks or obstacles.
  • Collaborate: Engage in collaborative estimating sessions with colleagues or team members. The diverse perspectives and expertise of others can provide new insights and help identify potential blind spots. Discuss and align the estimation approach, assumptions, and factors to consider.
  • Factor in Uncertainty: Acknowledge that uncertainty is inherent in any project. Provide a range of estimates that reflects the potential variations in time, effort, or complexity. Highlight any potential risks or unknowns that may impact the estimation accuracy.
  • Regularly Review and Refine: Recognise that estimation is not a static figure. Continuously review and refine your estimates as new information becomes available. Regularly revisit your assumptions and adjust the estimation based on project progress, feedback, or changes in scope.
  • Learn from Experience: Reflect on past projects to gain insights and lessons learned. Identify areas where previous estimations went wrong and understand the factors behind those inaccuracies. Leverage this knowledge to improve your future estimation skills and decision-making.
  • Communicate Clearly: Ensure effective communication of your estimates to all stakeholders involved in the project. Clearly articulate the assumptions made, the level of confidence in the estimates, and any risks or uncertainties. Transparent and open communication builds trust and avoids misunderstandings.
  • Track and Analyze: Throughout the project lifecycle, track actual time, effort, and costs against your initial estimation. Analyze any deviations or variances to understand the factors contributing to them. Use this data to refine your estimation techniques and improve accuracy in future projects.

In conclusion, estimating is a complex task that requires a proper mindset, a strategic approach, and collaboration. Embrace the learning journey, break down complexity, involve your team and factor in uncertainty. By applying these proper estimation techniques, you'll unlock the secret to accurate estimations and set your projects up for success. Happy estimating!

And if you want to learn how not to estimate, check out this article!