Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : May 7th 2013 Contents B18
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Have you ever been on a project where the deadline
was way too tight?
Chances are that tempers were frayed, sponsors
were unhappy, and team members were working
Chances are, too, that this happened because
someone underestimated the amount of work needed
to complete the project.
People often underestimate the amount of time
needed to implement projects, particularly when
they re not familiar with the work that needs to be
For instance, they may not take into account unex-
pected events or urgent high priority work; and they
may fail to allow for the full complexity of the job.
Clearly, this is likely to have serious negative con-
sequences further down the line.
This is why it s important to estimate time accu-
rately, if your project is to be successful.
Why estimate time accurately?
Accurate time estimation is a crucial skill in project
management. Without it, you won t know how long
your project will take, and you won t be able to get
commitment from the people who need to sign it
off.Even more importantly for your career, sponsors
often judge whether a project has succeeded or failed
depending on whether it has been delivered on time
and on budget. To have a chance of being successful
as a project manager, you need to be able to negotiate
sensible budgets and achievable deadlines.
How to estimate time accurately
Use these steps to make accurate time estimates:
Step 1: Understand What s Required
Start by identifying all of the work that needs to
be done within the project.
As part of this, make sure that you allow time for
meetings, reporting, communications, testing and
other activities that are critical to the project s success.
(You can find out more on these activities in our
article on project management phases and process-
Step 2: Order These Activities
Now, list all of the activities you identified in the
order in which they need to happen.
At this stage, you don t need to add in how long
you think activities are going to take. However, you
might want to note any important deadlines. For
example, you might need to get work by the finance
department finished before it starts work on "Year
Step 3: Decide Who You Need to Involve
You can do the estimates yourself, brainstorm
them as a group, or ask others to contribute.
Where you can, get the help of the people who
will actually do the work, as they are likely to have
prior experience to draw upon. By involving them,
they ll also take on greater ownership of the time
estimates they come up with, and they ll work harder
to meet them.
Step 4: Make Your Estimates
You re now ready to make your estimates. We ve
outlined a variety of methods below to help you do
this. Whichever methods you choose, bear these
basic rules in mind:
• To begin with, estimate the time needed for
each task rather than for the project as a whole.
• The level of detail you need to go into depends
on the circumstances. For example, you may only
need a rough outline of time estimates for future
project phases, but you ll probably need detailed
estimates for the phase ahead.
• List all of the assumptions, exclusions and con-
Estimating time accurately
straints that are relevant; and note any data
sources that you rely on. This will help you
when your estimates are questioned, and
will also help you identify any risk areas if
• Assume that your resources will only
be productive for 80 percent of the time.
Build in time for unexpected events such
as sickness, supply problems, equipment
failure, accidents and emergencies, problem
solving, and meetings.
• If some people are only working "part-
time" on your project, bear in mind that
they may lose time as they switch between
their various roles.
• Remember that people are often overly
optimistic, and may significantly underes-
timate the amount of time that it will take
for them to complete tasks.
You can ask team members, other man-
agers, or co-workers to challenge your time
Methods for Estimating Time
We ll now look at different approaches
that you can use to estimate time. You ll
probably find it most useful to use a mixture
of these techniques.
Continued on Page B19
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