Project Management

It is OK to Love Project Estimates!

Let’s face it. Not everyone likes estimates. But estimates, like vegetables, can be good for you! Terry Bunio, in an article for PM Hut, discusses the benefits of doing estimates before leaping headlong into your next project.

I Think, Therefore I Estimate

Estimates are a form of visualization. Using them is like stepping into a flight simulator before we actually fly the plane, because they force us to think through a situation in detail before committing to execution. Bunio has another useful analogy:

I liken estimating to the visualization successful sport athletes do. It is the visualization and mental practice of what is likely to happen. Great athletes use this practice to anticipate issues and try to make every game as successful as possible.

Yet Bunio warns that an estimate is not an “actual.” It is not a promise of things to come. It is, well, an estimate of things to come, and should be updated regularly to reflect the changing nature of the project.

You’re Only as Good as Your Estimate

Estimates, aside from being useful in themselves, generate discussions about what is valuable. Of course, if you make estimates without sharing them, then you won’t generate discussion about value (what’s worse, you’ve failed to communicate, but that’s a separate issue entirely).

It is possible to begin a project without the ability to complete a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) within your current budget. Is this advisable? No ma’am. It is certainly common for IT projects to operate within a very narrow profit margin, but that doesn’t make it good practice!

Strategic Perspective

At the heart of this discussion about estimates is the idea of strategic tradeoffs. Sure it’s more expedient to initiate such-and-such a project without an estimate. But the point is that clients never just focus on one project. From an administrative perspective, it makes sense to do estimates because it helps clients compare the costs and benefits across their entire portfolio. If a particular project looks unpromising based on current estimates, then any funds exceeding MVP can be allocated elsewhere.

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