written by amcvega on July 3rd, 2006 @ 10:14 AM

When it comes to estimating how much time you think will be needed to accomplish a project, it’s best to over-estimate and deliver fast.

One of the most frustrating things for all people is moving deadlines; people hate moving deadlines for any reason. Some try to get around this by emphasizing that any schedules they make at the onset of a project are temporary because of the difficulty of predicting the future. However, even that “temporary” deadline you made at a casual conversation in a cafe while sipping mocha isn’t what it seems. When push comes to shove, that deadline is the deadline. If you don’t meet it, everybody thinks something’s wrong or worse – that you’re slacking off.

The truth is that estimates are really hard to make at the beginning of anything. One of the things that make hardened professionals look so good is that they can make pretty confident estimates quicker than most. (because they’ve got experience on their side) One rule of thumb you might want to follow until you get all that experience is to triple the estimated time. Most developers, after talking over the project a while, think it’ll take maybe 1 month to complete the project; but in reality it will take 3. When it comes to actually doing the work you’ll find that the scheduled tasks add up and the initial estimate doesn’t seem realistic at all.

Now, this may seem like a bad idea because one maxim of project management has always been Parkinson’s law “Work expands to fill the time available.” However, if you’ve got the right people who really love what their doing, then this rule doesn’t apply to you because you really want work really well, really fast.

Bottom line, it is your duty to give your client (and yourself) a realistic estimate. The trick is to make miracles by delivering way faster than expected. After all, that’s how Scotty got to save the day every episode.

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