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How to reexamine your project estimates without any major changes to the project?


ProofReadHave you ever been in a situation, where you had to revisit your estimations and adjust them accordingly? I have. Few months ago, I have created a roadmap for some of my projects. However, I didn’t have the time to perform a detailed effort/cost analysis for those projects.  Thus, I estimated those projects at very high level, and thought of validating those estimates once the actual project starts. Yesterday, I ended up creating a WBS (work break down structure) for one of the projects, and I found that it might go 60% over our allocated budget. That type of increase will either not be funded at all, or the additional funding will probably require another approved project to be cancelled. Thus, I reassessed my estimations. With this blog, I would like to share my experience through which you can reassess your estimations.

Verify your estimates: Before digging up deep and cutting unnecessary costs, you should verify your estimates. I mostly use Microsoft Project or Microsoft Excel for estimating my projects. If you are using these tools, then I would recommend you to recheck all of your formulae. You should also keep an eye on your resource rates and non-labor costs. Make sure, they are reasonably accurate. If you are convinced that your math is accurate, then you might want to apply another estimating technique to see if you can get down the project cost without making any major changes to the project.

Find other alternatives: Once you are done verifying your estimates, you should then find other less expensive alternatives for all of your resources. For example: if you are counting on contract labor resources, you should see whether they could be replaced with company’s employees. Or if you are proposing new software/hardware as a part of your project, you should see whether your company already has something that will work for you. Or find out opportunities of automation, so that you can reduce the overall cost of the project without compromising on functionalities. And yeah! Make sure to take help from other experienced people in the company. Sometimes, they might come up with the solutions that you might not have thought about.

Negotiate scope of the project: Let’s say, you have tried your best to eliminate any unnecessary costs, but your project is still going over budget. What would you do then? Don’t panic. You can negotiate the scope of your project with your stakeholders. You can talk with your stakeholders, and find out activities/tasks that you can eliminate without majorly affecting project’s deliverables. I would recommend you to start this process by looking at the priority list first. If you recommend to eliminate lower priority items from the project, then your stakeholders are more likely to be in favor of your decision. You might want to defer some low priority tasks/activities, before you can get more funding. This will ensure that you can deliver similar level of functionality without compromising on quality.

I hope these tips will help you to adjust your project estimates properly. Let me know, if you have any other ideas through which you can better adjust your estimates in the project. Thanks. – Bhavin Gandhi

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Posted by on January 23, 2012 in 21st Century, Leadership, Management

 

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Incorporate best practices into your organization’s culture


Recently, I was called upon for help by one of the local small business owner. She wanted to improve efficiency of her business processes to improve production capacity. After reviewing her existing process documents, I couldn’t find any major improvements. So, I visited her company and met with few employees to get more information. To my surprise, employees gave me the different picture of the organization. Most of the employees seemed to consider processes as an unnecessary overhead. Their working style reflected “Just do it” approach to finish the work. This is not an independent event. I have seen many organizations, where this problem is prominent. You can have as many processes as you can, but if you fail to incorporate those process in to your culture then nothing is going to help you in improving efficiency. Following are few tips that you can follow in order to enforce your processes.

Demonstrate Benefits:

Most of the workers push back on the use of processes based on their primary perception of “more processes = more work”. While that might be true, the assumption that not employing processes will tend to create less overhead is generally untrue. Thus, an organization needs to do a better job of communicating benefits of their processes to their employees. For example: Don’t just tell your employees to put in their actual hours in to the ERP system. Explain them how this will help you to get an appropriate estimates for your future projects, and how this will reduce their overtime. Also, discuss about other benefits such as reduction in employee’s stress level due to more control over projects, etc.

Customize processes:

It is always better to have people adopt practices that they have thought of instead of demanding that they should follow a particular process “because I said so”. Thus, every organization should do a better job of involving their employees in fine tuning their processes. Before coming up with any kind of process or hiring an external consultant, one should ask their employees about their idea of an ideal process. Of course, you might not agree with each and every idea that is presented to you. But it will give you a baseline to think about, and that too, for free. Asking feedback from employees will make them feel valuable and get their buy-ins before you implement the process. Thus, there are more chances that those customized processes will convert into actual processes instead of being just on paper.

I hope, these tips will help you to incorporate best practices in to your organizational culture. Let me know, if you have any other suggestions regarding the same. Thanks. – Bhavin Gandhi

 
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Posted by on April 4, 2011 in 21st Century, Leadership, Management

 

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