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Estimation from the Project Sponsor or Product Owner’s Perspective

In this article I will be covering how to drive the process of project estimation for successful projects from the Project Sponsor or Product Owner side. As a Project Sponsor or Product Owner we have the highest responsibility for this project due to the fact that we have been supporting it over our business organization to make it happen. So follow these keys for making sure your project estimates will drive a successful project.

Accurate Requirements for accurate estimations

For accurate estimating, accurate requirements are needed. List each of the requirements and assign a number or code to each. For it, also make sure that a detailed description of the deliverables or expected product components is gathered and provided, in any other case it will not possible to get accurate estimations. As a Project Sponsor or Product Owner you need to take responsibility that those requirements will be provided accurately to your project provider or project team, in order to get accurate estimations from them.

Decrease Risks for Reliable Estimations

The more uncertainty, the more risk the project provider or project team will face, and of course this will be translated in their project estimates. Risk management is critical for project estimation. Don’t leave this only for the project provider or project team side to do. As a Project Sponsor or Product Owner you can help them to minimize risks. Don’t transfer all risks, instead try to be more selective and clarify what those risks are that you are really transferring. Work together on the Project Risk Assessment; share with both sides what are the project risks and who will be responsible for each. Finally, once the project provider or project team risks are clear, estimates will absolutely be more accurate.

Work with Project Baselines

A Requirement Baseline will be linked to a Scope Baseline, Quality Baseline, Stakeholder Baseline, Time Baseline, Resource Baseline, and Cost Baseline. If requirements change, some or all of the aforementioned baselines may change, and of course your Project Estimation.

In Waterfall Project Management, we must gather all the requirements before we go ahead in that phase or project.

In Agile Project Management baselines are sprints. They work in very short cycles, where in each one, requirements are gathered and agreed upon before building that piece of product.

No matter what Project Management approach you use, Changes may occur. And in this case they must be driven via a Project Change Management process. So, those baselines provide the traceability to understand how project estimations change due to project changes.

As a Project Sponsor or Product Owner you need to participate in the Change Control Board (CCB) and take control of the Project Baselines.

Stakeholder Changes Are Critical Over Project Estimation

This is a very specific point from the previous one. Stakeholders’ expectations on project products and outcomes may be completely different from one stakeholder to another.

Each project phase or agile cycle (sprint) should not change stakeholders responsible for acceptance of a deliverable or piece of product, because this may add un-estimated delays. Acceptance must be provided by the same stakeholders who provided the requirements. This is a round trip. This is the #1 reason why long projects or projects with long phases fail: because internal project stakeholder changes occurred. Failing a project means not meeting requirements or expectations. Both, in any case, must be accepted by people. Changes of personnel mean not only different expectations and points of view, but also different knowledge of the project environment, and also different risks for the project provider. So, don’t change those people, or your project estimations will no longer be accurate.

Tune Your Project Management Estimation Methods

Learn from experience. Make sure that both sides learn from every project phase or cycle. As one adquires more information along the course of the project, risks also may decrease and other unknown-knows or know-unknowns may arise. Maybe project requirements wouldn’t change, but some project assumptions might. So, as the purpose here is to get the most accurate project estimations,  baselines may also be changed based on more practical knowledge and more detailed information that is available.

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