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How to Estimate Project Time


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1) Role of Project Estimation and terms it operates:

Time estimation is performed on project planning phase to give an accurate as possible appraisal to project timeframes to know when it is really feasible to deliver project results. Inaccurate estimation hazards the overall ability to deliver results on-time, so it decreases reliability and competency of the project manager and his team, hence cannot be failed. Time estimation requires having certain items at hand because these essentials maximize accurateness of estimation.

Let’s consider the fundamentals necessary for successful project time estimation:

  1. Detailed outlook and well-elaborated conception of work the project comprises;
  2. Hierachical list of the actions that need to be done (WBS);
  3. The critical path of the project;
  4. Well-grounded input from professionals and experts;
  5. Historical data on similar tasks undertaken in the past, if available;
  6. Risks assessment in regard with particular project tasks;
  7. Capacity and capabilities of available project resources (equipment and manpower);

Some necessary elements to be considered before the project time estimation:

  • Conception of Done: make sure that the project customers and you (as performers) agree upon conditions and criteria to identify project’s readiness. Negotiate and document it to clearly know what results and objectives are assumed behind the project’s deadline.
  • Project Phases and Details : research high-level stages that will take place on the path of the project completion, from its beginning to finish. Decompose each of the phases into underlying tasks to understand what efforts each stage involves to make your estimates more determined.
  • Deliverables: define tangible and intangible outcomes that you expect to produce at each step. Understanding of deliverables will give you a clearer picture of complexity, so you will have a better vision of what challenges you are up against. You can make a technologic breakdown to decompose each item of deliverables into methods and tools to be used, so you can envisage the forthcoming work in the most complete manner.

Some project estimation terms that will be used:

  • Optimistic estimate – the shortest possible duration implying that all concerned factors aid the work maximally auspiciously, helping to perform it rapidly.
  • Pessimistic estimate – scenario considering negative influences of certain risks hampering the work, so it takes a lot of time to get the work done.
  • Most likely estimate – realistic estimate reasoned by negative and positive scenarios.
  • Delay allowance – certain amount of time that is reserved to respect probability of unforeseen problems or to be used for redo actions.

Some possible reasons causing delays on work, to be considered in estimation:

  • Competing high urgency tasks;
  • Emergencies;
  • Holidays and sickness;
  • Mismanagements by suppliers or contractors;
  • Excessive time for meetings an discussions;
  • Equipment breakdowns;
  • Quality control rejections;
  • All kinds of interruptions;

2) Action Plan to Estimate Project Time:

  1. Understand the goals to achieve with a project;
  2. Consider, discuss and verify the scope of work with the client and your specialists;
  3. Envisage and elaborate a professional conception of the entire work to be done;
  4. Outline the main stages of the project;
  5. Identify deliverables to obtain at every project stage;
  6. Decompose project stages into sub-stages and sub-tasks (create WBS);
  7. Drill down to a deeper possible level of detail;
  8. Consult with your client about deliverables and details they need to be added/discarded;
  9. Alter the WBS and approve it with the client;
  10. Determine the critical path of the project;
  11. Identify owner for each task and request him for professional input on duration of this work;
  12. Research historical data or industrial best practices on duration of such tasks;
  13. Involve technology experts to provide you with more of qualified input;
  14. Research risks connected to each task (factors that may hamper the progress);
  15. Research qualities and capabilities of your resources;
  16. Elaborate the most propitious and successful scenario of performance;
  17. Give an optimistic estimate to durations of all tasks lying on the critical path;
  18. Consider risks involved and drive throughout a negative scenario;
  19. Give a pessimistic estimate to durations of all tasks lying on the critical path;
  20. Give a most likely estimate that is between pessimistic and optimistic estimates;
  21. Get a more true value for task duration estimates with the following formula:
  22. (Optimistic estimate ) + (Pessimistic estimate ) + (Most likely estimate )


  23. Reasoning from severity of associated risks, reserve some time to set delay allowance on each activity, so you can mitigate any possible delays;
  24. Summarize time needed for the tasks residing on the critical path;
  25. Enter information into your time tracking tool of choice;

3) A way to Estimate Project Time with VIP Task Manager:

VIP Task Manager is a product that stands for collaboration between managers and employees, so it allows managers to estimate and control work explained in terms of particular tasks among their employees. Let’s consider simple step-by-step instructions to estimate projects in this product:

Instruments to be used:

  • Task Tree mode;
  • Calendar mode;

Task Tree mode actions:

  1. Create work breakdown structure by planning layout of task groups;
  2. Create in each group appropriate sub-groups and sequenced tasks;
  3. Set timeframes for each task (Start and Finish dates);
  4. Set “Estimate Time” to regulate work duration of tasks;
  5. Assign tasks and groups to appropriate resources;

Calendar mode actions:

  1. Switch to “Time Grid view” on Calendar;
  2. Set appropriate format in option “Time Grid Scale”;
  3. Check “Group by Resources” to see individual Calendars;
  4. Observe the project’s tasks durations by scrolling timeline;
  5. Prolong or shift tasks durations by drag & drop method once required;

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