Make time for these four hidden areas in your project estimate

Some areas you need to consider in a project estimate stay hidden until the project actually starts. Here's how to uncover them at the outset.

Most people understand they have to try to uncover all the executable work in a project estimate. The problem is, some areas are hidden at first. It is only after you start the project that you begin to see their impact. These areas include:

Project meetings. Meetings that are project-related should be included in the workplan and should be added to the estimated effort of the project. This is because meetings of this type are within the control of the project team. You should allocate time every week for a project status meeting, and in some cases you will have multiple meetings. If you have eight people on your team, you need to account for eight effort hours in your estimate for each team meeting you schedule.

Team collaboration. Try to account for the total time required for all participants in any collaborative project-related meetings. For instance, if you're planning deliverable walkthroughs, you might allocate one hour for the meeting. However, remember that if there are three people at the review meeting, you should allocate three hours to each occurrence. Likewise, when you're circulating documents for approval, include some review time for each person you think will be involved. Many project managers include an hour for a document review. They forget that a document might be circulated to five people for their review and feedback. You must make sure that you allocate the full time for all the team members that are involved.

Project management. This refers to the effort required to successfully and proactively manage a project. This time includes planning the work, managing the schedule, managing scope, communicating effectively, etc. A good rule of thumb is to add 15% of the effort hours for project management. For instance, if a project estimate is 10,000 hours, the project management time is 1,500 hours. If the project estimate is 1,000 hours, the project management time would be 150 hours.

Client time. Client effort includes the time to review and approve deliverables, provide requirements, attend meetings, participate in training, etc. Some companies want to understand the total effort and cost of a project, including both the direct project team and the client resource requirements. In other companies, the project costs only include the direct project team. Whether you include client hours and cost in your estimate is an area you should discuss with your manager and your sponsor. If your project estimate includes client hours and cost, the hours need to be kept separately. You might be surprised how many projects would get delayed if your sponsor better understood the effort and costs required from the client side in addition to the time and cost associated with the direct project team.

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