by Anthony DeMarco
| September 18, 2014
Jacob has a great comment to my recent post on getting it "right the first time". He notes that requirements are often fuzzy and that estimates rely on peoples' opinion of cost and duration - and that the are often wrong. He asked what silver bullet we have. Our silver bullet is a proven discipline that makes people better estimators and sheds light on fuzzy requirements.
It starts with the people. Becoming an accurate estimator requires the same step-by-step approach as any learned skill such as golf or tennis or swimming (things I am currently struggling to do well). First you need the right tools, then you need to learn the right way, then you need to be mentored by experts as you practice what you learned until it becomes second nature. Recently, I was struggling with my breathing while attempting to swim. Lap-after-lap I was breathing hard, swallowing water - it was a miserable sight. Then I consulted an expert that got my head turning the right way and got me into an rhythm of breathing every third stroke. My swimming quickly improved by 40% - more laps in less time.
We do the same for our clients. First we arm them with the right tools. Our TruePlanning software provides a proven step-by-step discipline to do an estimate the right way, TruePlanning asks the right questions and covers all the bases, including risks. Then we train people not just how to use our software but how to be great estimators. Sizing methods, interview techniques, and requirements elicitation are part of our training. Then our experts are by their side as they hone their skills through email, live-meetings, a 24/7 hot-line, and on-site visits. Throughout we provide people with benchmark measurements of other similar efforts and tips to guide them. Suddenly fuzzy requirements become clearer. People are doing more accurate estimates in less time. Typically our clients improve their estimating accuracy by 50% within three months and several of our clients now produce estimates that average within 5% of actual scope, cost, and schedule. Our clients leverage our cost estimating software and cost management software to estimate software costs and schedules, IT infrastructure costs, and custom hardware to improve their overall project and portfolio management. By the way, I just finished a mile in the pool and improved by another 10% - practice makes perfect.