Accurate Time Estimation is a very important aspect of Project Management. For a project to be called a success, it has to be completed on time and within the budget. Therefore, it is imperative that the project manager is able to estimate time accurately so as to know how long a project will take to complete. This will help enhance project planning, ensure timely delivery of milestones and to determine the pricing of contracts.
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Many times, the amount of time required to complete a project is underestimated; especially when the project manager is not acquainted with the work required to be done. He may miss out taking into account unforeseen events or urgent high-priority tasks. In order to be able to accurately estimate project timelines, you can follow the below steps.
Understand the project requirements:-
Begin with understanding the project requirements by engaging the key stakeholders. The goal of the project can be- to develop a new product or software, create new service model of an organization, upgrading existing systems, etc. Thoroughly knowing the project requirements will help to identify the amount of work that needs to be done on the project.
Decide the order of all tasks/deliverables:-
Now list all the activities that have to be completed in great detail. Note them down in a chronological order. It is not necessary that you mention the timeline for each task. However, it would be prudent to make a note of important deadlines.
Decide who you need to involve:-
It is important that a project manager seeks the active participation of the key stakeholders who are commissioning the project. Also, you may take the help of subject-matter experts and people who have done such tasks earlier. This will ensure that they contribute in estimating timelines due to their prior experience.
Estimate time required:-
When you begin to estimate the time, do not do it for the project as a whole. Instead, set a timeline for completion of each task on your list of deliverables. There are certain factors which may cause delays in completing tasks. Ensure that you allow enough time for the following:-
- General project management administration and meetings.
- Liaison with suppliers and contractors for resources, including delays in deliveries by suppliers.
- Accidents and Emergencies.
- Breakdowns in equipment.
- Holidays or illness of key project members.
- Quality control rejections.
- Other high-priority tasks depending on urgency.
Various Methods for Estimating Time:
Bottom-up estimation involves estimating time for the project as a whole. In this approach, larger tasks are broken down into smaller, detailed tasks and then the time needed to complete each task is estimated. To get an idea about how long you will take to complete the project, you may add up the estimated time needed for each task.
In this approach, you develop an overview of the estimated time by using previous project experience as a guide. You may compare the bottom-up estimates and top-down estimates to have a better understanding of the required time. There could be a huge difference between the two estimates; however, you can use both to arrive at more accurate time estimation.
In this approach, you compare your project with other similar projects to estimate time to be taken for completing the project.
In this approach, you estimate the time required to complete one task and multiply it with the number of similar tasks or deliverables. This method is useful when all the tasks listed are of the same type/ repetitive work.
In this approach, you develop three different time estimates- one for the best case, second for the worst case and the third for the most likely case. This method equips you to set more reasonable time estimates based on a more realistic estimate of outcomes.
As an efficient project manager, you should be able to estimate deadlines accurately. Failing which, you may lose a lot of credibility and money. If you under-estimate time requirements, you will continuously miss various deadlines causing delays at every stage of the project. Moreover, you would end up putting the project team under unnecessary stress.