Project Estimation Quiz

All individuals in this story are wholly fictional and should not be considered to be representative of individuals I have known, heard about, or otherwise have been accused of being.

Here's a simple question to get you moving this morning. Let's consider the following scenario. After spending the last month working with your wife on choosing “just the right” colors for your bedroom, you finally have it. It's the perfect color, it goes with everything, and brings out the accents just like… well, you get it.

Just to surprise her, you're going to do the painting. You've spent your “home improvement fund” for the month, but joy and appreciation will be well worth it. She leaves for her errands and and you should have about 5 hours. In no time, you've covered the furniture, removed the decor, and have the paint ready to go.

Within 2 hours, you have the entire first coat complete. Wanting to do a fantastic job, you let it dry and start on the second coat. When you're down to your last wall with 30 minutes left, you hear her coming down the hall.

You've spent 100% of the allocated funds; and
You've completed 80% of work; and
You've spent 90% of your alloted time; but
You're seconds from launch.

Quick, what percent complete are you?

Of the top of my head, I'd go with 80+% complete. It makes sense since that's the amount of work remaing. Sure, there are no additional funds available and no time available and the launch is imminent, but work is work and there's still 20% of it to do. It's not ready to “go live” but its in a status that you don't mind showing it off a bit even though a good deal of cleanup still has to happen.

But what if…

What if you bought the wrong color?

The entire concept of Earned Value Management (EVM) is based on the idea that the consumption of resources throughout the project should roughly align with the overall percent completion. Therefore if you're 10% into your schedule, you should be approximately 10% complete. By projecting any variances out, you should be able to estimate the resources consumed at completion.

On a large-scale, this makes perfect sense and is easy to apply. On a per-task or even per-phase basis, this gets much more complicated and can actually be skewed quite simply. In the scenario above, it would have been better for you to stay in bed all day. The work would have been 0% complete either way, but you'd still have the resources available… and probably a less annoyed wife. 😉

Overall, how do you measure your projects? Do you measure them at a high enough level where it makes sense and you can accurately identify trends yet low enough that you can still adjust and address problems which arise?