one of the toughest tasks i’ve encountered as a lead (and one of the things i hated as well) is creating project estimates.

why? i knew very well that the slightest miscalculation will cause my team to run out of buckets to charge with. For those who are unaware how it works in IT (consulting), in most projects IT PINOYs are assigned chargeable buckets mainly to manage project/company costs (too much overtime etc.). So if there’s no more bucket to place rendered work time, these IT PINOYs may end up working without pay, which of course is a big no-no! we’re all here not solely out of our good hearts but most of all to earn and “bring home the bacon!”

on the other hand, overcommitting is another problem encountered with inefficient estimates. i have experienced and felt that the schedule was overcommitted by the management to the client. we ended up rendering unpaid overtimes/overnights just to be able to deliver. this caused exponential work-life balance issues, burnouts and poor quality of work.

the following are but some lessons i have learned.

1. for cmmi companies, templates are already available. it’s always good to view how other projects did their estimates, most likely these were already proven timelines (this may of course not fully answer your project needs, but it’s a good basis while doing your estimates)
2. during the requirements gathering, determine which are trully feasible. do the client really need all of what they’re asking for? perhaps some can be done by release? or service packs?
3. never sugar-coat your status reports. if there are issues, raise it to your management/client ASAP.
4. do post-mortems and revisit your estimates, update as necessary!
5. compromise! compromise with your clients, ensure them that you and your team are working hard to complete the project. compromise with your management, be honest! most likely they can guide you and give you options to ensure meeting your goals! compromise with your team. know that although we are still driven by business, they are still people. but help them see the big picture. this way, if you ask them to render OT’s atleast they know why they need to.

this is a good read from Tech Republic – Chip Camdem’s “Overcommitted? Face the music and talk to your client”

Enjoy your estimates! Good luck!

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