THE ESTIMATING PROBLEM
Barbara just received the good news: She was assigned as the project
manager for a project that her company won as part of competitive
bidding. Whenever a request for proposal (RFP) comes into Barbara’s
company, a committee composed mainly of senior managers reviews the
RFP. If the decision is made to bid on the job, the RFP is turned over to
the Proposal Department. Part of the Proposal Department is an estimating
group that is responsible for estimating all work. If the estimating group
has no previous history concerning some of the deliverables or work
packages and is unsure about the time and cost for the work, the
estimating team will then ask the functional managers for assistance with
Project managers like Barbara do not often participate in the bidding
process. Usually, their first knowledge about the project comes after the
contract is awarded to their company and they are assigned as the project
manager. Some project managers are highly optimistic and trust the
estimates that were submitted in the bid implicitly unless, of course, a
significant span of time has elapsed between the date of submittal of the
proposal and the final contract award date. Barbara, however, is somewhat
pessimistic. She believes that accepting the estimates as they were
submitted in the proposal is like playing Russian roulette. As such,
Barbara prefers to review the estimates.
One of the most critical work packages in the project was estimated at
twelve weeks using one grade 7 employee full time. Barbara had
performed this task on previous projects and it required one person full
time for fourteen weeks. Barbara asked the estimating group how they
arrived at this estimate. The estimating group responded that they used the
three-point estimate where the optimistic time was four weeks, the most
likely time was thirteen weeks, and the pessimistic time was sixteen
Barbara believed that the three-point estimate was way off of the mark.
The only way that this work package could ever be completed in four
weeks would be for a very small project nowhere near the complexity of
Barbara’s project. Therefore, the estimating group was not considering
any complexity factors when using the three-point estimate. Had the
estimating group used the triangular distribution where each of the three
estimates had an equal likelihood of occurrence, the final estimate would
have been thirteen weeks. This was closer to the fourteen weeks that
Barbara thought the work package would take. While a difference of 1
week seems small, it could have a serious impact on Barbara’s project and
incur penalties for late delivery.
Barbara was now still confused and decided to talk to Peter, the employee
that was assigned to do this task. Barbara had worked with Peter on
previous projects. Peter was a grade 9 employee and considered to be an
expert in this work package. As part of the discussions with Barbara, Peter
made the following comments:
I have seen estimating data bases that include this type of work
package and they all estimate the work package at about 14 weeks. I
do not understand why our estimating group prefers to use the three
“Does the typical data base account for project complexity when
considering the estimates?” asked Barbara. Peter responded:
Some data bases have techniques for considering complexity, but
mostly they just assume an average complexity level. When
complexity is important, as it is in our project, analogy estimating
would be better. Using analogy estimating and comparing the
complexity of the work package on this project to the similar works
packages I have completed, I would say that 16–17 weeks is closer to
reality, and let’s hope I do not get removed from the project to put out
a fire somewhere else in the company. That would be terrible. It is
impossible for me to get it done in 12 weeks. And adding more people
to this work package will not shorten the schedule. It may even make
Barbara then asked Peter one more question:
Peter, you are a grade 9 and considered as the subject matter expert. If
a grade 7 had been assigned, as the estimating group had said, how
long would it have taken the grade 7 to do the job?
“Probably about 20 weeks or so,” responded Peter.
1. How many different estimating techniques were discussed in the case?
2. If each estimate is different, how does a project manager decide that
one estimate is better than another?
3. If you were the project manager, which estimate would you use?
Read the above paragraph and answer the below Questions in APA Format with Minimum of 125 words for each question.
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