A couple of the current consulting engagements include good work estimation of project activities as a required end state. And it needs to be done quickly!
In one case there are a couple of high-profile projects with rigid completion dates. And the organisation has a history of fixed duration scheduling. In a balanced matrix project management environment where the functional managers have traditionally taken care of resource availability, the project managers are concerned with meeting dates. The top management is now concerned that there are sufficient fumctional resources to meet the project workload.
The other case is in a less advanced organisation. Top management wants to implement a project management regime that provides for cost and schedule management. In this weak matrix environment, there is no history of estimating either cost or schedule.
A quote I came across recently points up the dilemma:
"The trouble with using experience as a guide is that the final exam comes first and then the lesson" (Anonymous)
The challenge for an organisation is to have the lessons before the final exam. And that means starting to capture the experience. And the realisation that the capability cannot be built overnight.
There are many references as to how to 'do' estimating. The PMBOK is one obvious example and Simon Wallace at the EPM Book
gives a very readable description. But we're still faced with the issue of getting to the point where estimating is an established part of the project management process. And that is not a quick transition.
So what's to do? The short answer is 'make a start'. Start creating estimates - using the techniques described in the literature. Start recording estimates. Start measuring actual effort. Start feeding back variance information into the estimating process. Start engaging other parts of the organisation in the importance of estimating. It won't happen overnight but the sooner you start, the sooner the client organisation will improve its project management capability.
Labels: capability, estimates, project-manager, resources, workload