• Estimate with Confidence ™



Blog



I had the great pleasure to sponsor, attend and speak at the second annual ICEAA Canada Workshop in Ottawa last week. A speaker opened the conference with his personal story of discovering the vast cost estimating and analysis community in America, which motivated him and others to start ICEAA Canada as a means for Canadian estimators to "up their game".  And I must commend the Canadians on their response – it is remarkable.  First, it is important to note that expectations on estimates started to grow in 2013 and continue to this day. It is now expected that evidence-based ...
Original Post Date: Friday, December 3, 2010 Yesterday I had the pleasure of speaking at the New England SCEA Chapter December. The attendees were a great mix of experienced, seasoned cost estimators and young, new talent, eager to learn techniques to apply on the job.  My topic was the program management value of combining estimating Rules of Thumb with more rigorous cost estimating models and databases [link to presentation .pdf].  Rule of Thumb estimating is used every day by program managers to help guide their projects.  Oversight authorities rarely have the resources to perform detailed program estimates, so they ...
Original Post Date: Thursday, July 29, 2010 The following is an extract from a paper written in 1978 from one of the founders of PRICE Systems:  Two questions are often asked by those unfamiliar with TruePlanning’s approach to cost modeling: What is your CER (cost estimating relationship)? And what is your data base? These questions are closely related.  Both are based on the assumption that the PRICE modeling approach is the same as that customarily used in developing cost estimating relationships.  This is not the case.  The customary approach is to first gather as much relevant data as possible, then screen the ...
Original Post Date: Thursday, July 22, 2010 Recently the Director of the Office of Management & Budget (OMB), Peter Orszag issued a directive that was posted on the OMB blog that outlined three specific actions for IT reform. The actions include a freeze on all new IT modernization task orders for financial systems, reviews of current high risk IT projects and require agencies to submit improvement plans to the CIO; thirdly, the OMB Deputy Director will develop recommendations within 120 days to improve the federal government’s overall IT procurement and management practices. Orszag states: “While a productivity boom has transformed private sector ...
Original Post Date: Thursday, May 6, 2010 I am excited about the efforts described in Derek Kaufman’s article on the AFMC website.  For the complete story please see this link http://www.afmc.af.mil/News/Article-Display/Article/154211/dod-making-massive-investment-in-its-acquisition-workforce/. The DoD is investing in the rapid build up of a new foundation of acquisition workers focused on estimating costs and negotiating prices through continuous learning.    Mr. Assad notes that Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, was once the preeminent DoD recognized leader at estimating costs and negotiating prices with defense contractors. It's a skill that has been allowed to atrophy, he noted.   "We need to build that pricing capability back ...
Original Post Date: Friday, December 18, 2009 The cost estimating community mourns the loss of a true pioneer this week. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family. Frank Freiman has a special place in the history of PRICE Systems as his innovative work is directly responsible for the company’s existence today. This is a classic case of where one man can truly made a difference. Thousands of estimators across the world have benefited and continue to benefit from his accomplishments. Frank began studying the applications of statistical quality control as an officer in the US Army during World War ...
Original Post Date: Tuesday, March 17, 2009 Doing business with the Department of Defense (DOD) requires that you have disciplined company governance in specific areas as noted in the Defense Federal Acquisition Regulations (DFARs). In particular, DFARs 215.811 and 252.215-7003. DFARs 215.811 requires all DOD contractors, large and small, have adequate estimating systems to support their proposals. As part of a regulatory oversight requirement, the Defense Contracts Audit Agency (DCAA) will periodically perform contractor estimating system reviews. If you are a large defense contractor, you can expect your estimating system to be reviewed routinely. Smaller defense contractors can be audited ...
Original Post Date: Friday, March 6, 2009 Barak Obama's 2010 U.S. Federal Budget proposal promises a "New Era of Responsibility", and in the introduction he says,  "...we must begin the process of making the tough choices necessary to restore fiscal discipline, cut the deficit in half by the end of my first term in office, and put our Nation on sound fiscal footing." Tough choices indeed. Therein lies the greatest challenge.  With the best intentions, our government tries to do good things, but always starts more projects than it can afford.  And often the expected "value" of an initiative is never fully vetted before a project is ...
Original Post Date: Tuesday, January 20, 2009 Today, change is in the air.  As I write this, Barack Obama is about to be sworn in as our new U.S. President and the space community, among others, should be braced for change.  A recent LA times article reported that of the 74 questions asked of NASA by the Obama transition team, over half were on basic spending issues, including cost overruns. The Obama team and the NASA Administrator Michael Griffin clearly do not see eye-to-eye.  Monday, it was announced that Mr. Griffin will step down from the post.  Griffin characterizes himself as an ...
Original Post Date: Wednesday, December 17, 2008 This was a fun and gratifying week at PRICE Systems. In our Mt. Laurel, NJ headquarters we had our annual holiday gift wrapping of presents we donated for needy children and families in the area.  The PRICE team gathered in our classroom and the wrapping began with no pre-instruction or guidance - but much merriment.  What a study in production process and learning!  Wrapping that first present was awkward.  It had been a while since I wrapped last.  How to measure the paper?  Where to cut?  How to keep the cut straight?  Which way do ...
Wednesday, December 10, 2008 by Anthony DeMarco Technology readiness is a critical cost driver of development programs.  Many high technology programs fail because initial cost and schedule expectations were based on the assumption that the technologies employed were proven,  when actually they were not. Space programs have the most dubious history in this regard.  I once listened to a Lockheed Martin executive explain how the X33 space shuttle was a great vehicle, but was canceled because it was, "two inventions short of meeting the requirements". Canceled after over one billion dollars were spent. Starting development projects that have constrained budgets and ...
Original Post Date: Tuesday, October 7, 2008  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 ...
Original Post Date: Wednesday, October 1, 2008  As I prepare my remarks for the first PRICE Systems International Symposium and User Group Meeting in Asia hosted by the PRIGENT corporation, I am astounded by the recent globalization of the Defense Industry.  Worldwide weapon systems acquisition has been permanently changed by:  the merger of US defense contractors in the 1990's, the entry of European contractors into the US Defense Industry (EADS, BAE) in the 2000's, and the entry of Korea into the global market happening now. Today, BAE Systems ...
Original Post Date: Thursday, September 18, 2008 While many at Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers, Merrill Lynch, and AIG are staggering from the Wall Street financial crisis, others on the acquisition side are contemplating the fate of redundant operations created by the these consolidations.  This reminds me of the rapid consolidation of the global Aerospace and Defense (A&D) during the 90's after the fall of the Berlin Wall.  Granted, this consolidation is happening at a much faster pace, but it would be wise for decision-makers to do a little performance measurement before they slash and burn redundant operations.  During the A&D consolidation, the General Electric Corporation called ...
Original Post Date: Wednesday, September 10, 2008 A good point is made in a comment to my last post, Chris Carter says, "As estimators I think it is our duty to tell our customer (management) what we assess the possible range of outcomes to be so that they can make use of this information ".  I agree that we should always deliver an indication of accuracy every estimate.  Uncertainty and risk analysis is an integral feature of TruePlanning and we educate our clients on the value of estimate ranges to optimizing project and portfolio performance. The uncertainty-based probabilistic confidence-level of an estimate that ...
 Original Post Date: Wednesday, September 3, 2008 Productivity refers to measures of output from production processes, per unit of input. The labor and materials that go into a project are the input, and the final delivered product represents the output. Your estimated project budget determines the planned productivity, and decomposes to a planned productivity for each individual and each unit of material.  The dynamics of the Project Management Triangle tell us that for a fixed cost (input) and schedule, if I underestimate the scope (output), then I have planned for a lower than optimal productivity.  And Parkinson's Law law tells us that ...
Original Post Date: Wednesday, August 27, 2008 While working with clients who operate under fixed budgets I often hear, "Cost is not an issue when we plan and budget, so why is estimating important?".  I quickly stress that estimating is not just about cost.  It about balancing project scope, cost, time, benefits and risks. If your estimates are not accurate, your projects and portfolios are not optimized – and you are wasting money. Projects are planned and managed within scope, time, and cost constraints. These constraints are referred to as the Project Management Triangle.  Each side represents a constraint.  One side ...
Original Post Date: Tuesday, August 12, 2008 Nothing drives me crazier than the statement I get from many of our clients during that first meeting, "We are really bad at estimating. So what? Why does it matter? Management does not seem to care."  Business leaders have been duped into believing that inaccurate project estimates are not a concern and that they cannot do better - Wrong.  Bad estimates lower profitability and yes, you can do better.  Please consider that projects are prioritized and launched based on their expected costs and benefits, the return-on-investment (ROI).  So you optimize your portfolio ...
Original Post Date: Wednesday, August 6, 2008 Last week the U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs held a hearing entitled "Offline and Off-budget: The Dismal State of Information Technology Planning in the Federal Government".  The prepared remarks by those who testified before the committee make good reading.  You can find them here. The committee focused on the many IT projects that are overrunning cost and schedule, giving most Federal Agencies failing grades on their budget management report card.  My experience while working with Fortune 500 companies is that they do not do much better - we just do ...
Original Post Date: Friday, August 1, 2008 If you are a baby-boomer like me and occasionally suffer from symptoms of mid-life crises it is important to answer the question, " What is the purpose of my work, my mission, my raison d'être?" So, I am starting this blog by taking a step away from the challenges on my desk at the moment to look at the big picture. Business leaders agree that reliable shareholder value lies in companies that sustain profitable growth and are "built to last". Hence, leaders focus on improving key performance indicators (KPIs) throughout their companies to ...
Original Post Date: Friday, August 1, 2008 Whether you are pricing a competitive bid, or you are trying to get a new product to market, estimating accuracy will determine your success or failure.  When pricing a competitive bid, you first want to “ghost the competition” to determine a price-to-win.  Parametric estimating models allow you to quickly estimate the cost of recently priced items from your competition to determine their bidding margins and target a likely price-to-win for a new competition.  I recently worked with one of our clients who has an extensive database of competitive bids from which he can determine ...