Original Post Date: Friday, May 21, 2010

Last month I blogged about the importance of cost realism, its roots and how as estimators we must always reflect the truth, no matter how unpopular. This month I want to share with you a recent experience on a Source Selection. As part of the Source Selection team, my role was to conduct a Cost Realism estimate on each of the performers submitting bids. I want to share with you a few insights from that experience.

One of the first rules I always follow is to never ask engineers to provide data that you can readily find. I rarely will use parametric data forms, as you will get to be unpopular fast with those you task with the honor of filling them out. Rather, I dig into the technical and cost volumes to derive the configuration, technology, weight statement, rates/overheads and other juicy information to populate TruePlanning.

Once I have the TruePlanning cost management software populated with all of the data I can derive from existing documents, I will then ask the subject matter experts in each area to discuss the other qualitative/quantitative factors about each performer. I can usually guide this conversation to derive inputs such as requirements stability, engineering complexity, integration and others. I find it effective to hold this meeting remotely using Go-To-Meeting so everyone can see my desktop displaying the TruePlanning model and no one has to leave their desk. When inputs are critical cost drivers, I usually pop up the wizards or generators so the engineers can see the choices available.

Once the model is fully populated and all inputs agreed to, I will then produce a very well documented estimate with all assumptions as the final deliverable. In this particular case the Source Selection team was very pleased with the result and asked if we could extrapolate a new configuration based on some technical changes proposed by the performer.

Using our well qualified TruePlanning model, we ran the extrapolation and reported to the Source Selection team that we expect to see a large impact. Initially, no one believed the results; it could not be so they said! However, several weeks later, when the performer’s new estimate arrived, we were within 1% of the revised bid. During this time period, the Source Selection team was able to successfully prepare a negotiating stance based on the expected bid coming in as predicted.

In all my years as an estimator, I have only seen estimates go up as more is known about the technical configuration. Bottom line, as estimators we are the “front line” for telling management the hard to hear truth. In this case, at least they were prepared!

Zach Jasnoff
Solutions Architect, PRICE Systems