Project Management

7 Painful Mistakes You're Making with Your Project Estimates

Stephanie Gonzaga
November 13, 2014
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Do you struggle with making the right estimates that you’re stuck and uncertain about how to get the project going?

A project’s success banks on the PM’s ability to make sound estimates of time, money, and level of effort.

It’s no easy feat, yet it’s a crucial aspect to any given project.

Time and money are on the line. You want to ensure that with this amount of resources and this specific timeline, you’ll be able to deliver the finished product on time and within budget.

In short, you don’t want to step onto the playing field unprepared and unaware of what goes into building and maintaining a digital project. If you do, you could jeopardize the project and get you and your team into trouble.

Prevent project disasters by avoiding these seven painful mistakes when estimating a project.

Mistake #1: You don’t take the time to get to know your team; study the project requirements; establish a workflow, etc.

Making blind project estimates is a one-way ticket to project disaster.

Not having enough knowledge about your team, your workflow, and the project itself leads you to make decisions that you’re not prepared for.

Mistake #2: You don’t ask questions.

It may seem like your clients know everything there is about the project, or that you have all the information you need to make a sound estimate.

By not asking questions, you miss out on possible insight and knowledge that may better inform your decisions when creating a project estimate.

Mistake #3: You simply sit behind your desk.

If you want to be a good project manager, you can’t just sit comfortably behind your project plans and documentation. Doing so blocks you from knowing what goes on in the project, understanding your team’s needs and workflow, and providing important information your clients or customers need.

Don’t just sit behind your desk. Dive deep into the work alongside your team, so you’d understand the factors that could affect the project.

Mistake #4: You don’t stay on top of the latest trends and deliverables in your industry.

Stay on top of the latest trends, news, and deliverables in your industry to ask the right questions and make informed projections.

Mistake #5: You don’t admit what you don’t know.

You aren’t honest about the fact that there are things you’ve little knowledge of. As a result, you tend to make assumptions that could lead to dire consequences on both you and your team.

Simply be true and honest about yourself, and be comfortable in asking questions from members of your team. Not only will you be able to connect with your teammates, but you can take away lessons and insights that may help you in the future.

Mistake #6: You don’t establish or adopt a process that fits with everyone’s needs.

Process is vital to maintain organization and direction within the team. Without establishing or adopting a process that works for everyone, you’ll never be able to get things done on a timely manner.

To echo last week’s post, understand how your team works by either learning the existing process (e.g. Agile, Waterfall, etc) or creating a unique process that fits with everyone’s needs.

Mistake #7: You don’t take history into consideration.

‘History’ simply refers to information about how long your team spent on a specific task or deliverable. It allows you to make better estimates for future projects that have similar requirements.

Without taking history into consideration, you’d be spending more time and effort re-learning and creating trial-and-error project estimates.

Make smarter decisions.

Making project estimates can be overwhelming. You want to make sure you project reasonable and flexible estimates so you’d be able to adjust and adopt as the project progresses.

With these seven mistakes exposed, you now know what to avoid, what to change, and how to approach each project to create sound estimates of time, money, and level of effort needed.

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