D'Arcy from Winnipeg
Solution Architecture, Business & Entrepreneurship, Microsoft, and Adoption

The Importance of Estimating Properly

Friday, December 21, 2007 5:17 PM

In August I scaled a building for charity. Part of the deal was that we'd get video footage of the event as a keepsake. September went by...October...November...after a few emails wondering what was up, and being told that they were waiting on the videographer, I figured all was just taking a bit longer.

Unfortunately we got the news today that we probably wouldn't be getting it...that the person contracted to cut the videos wasn't returning messages and that the ability to even retrieve the original images and video was probably lost.

Included in the email was a copy of the email the charity sent to the contractor, and in it I noticed an interesting trend.

In September, the materials were provided to the videographer.

Towards the end of October, the charity was informed that the finished product would be delivered to the charity by the end of the month.

Towards the end of November, the charity was informed there was approx 100 hours left of work.

On December 6th, the videographer gave a new delivery date of December 18th...which came and went. No materials.

So assuming that the videographer wasn't being a total slacker and had the best intentions in mind (I know as a consultant, you always want to make the customer happy...what that can mean though is telling them what they want to hear, which if it isn't reality could spell disaster), let's look at what could have been done differently:

Iterations

Many shops aren't down with the idea of iterative development yet, instead relying on their Gantt charts and waterfall methodologies. But iterative development has one huge benefit that should never be overlooked: providing value early and often. In the example of our videos, if the agreement had been to ask for small number of the videos in intervals (which would also have meant more happy participants earlier) then concerns over the ability of the videographer to complete the task could have been raised earlier.

Realistic Estimates

You need to give realistic estimates. But what happens when you're going to estimate what you don't know? What if you've never done work like what you're doing before, how do you come up with a number? You factor in the fact that you don't know. You create a base estimate knowing your own skill level and expertise, but then build in buffer and explain that this is due to the great unknown of the project. The customer may drop you, but this is where ethics come in: do you want to land a deal even if it means the agreed upon terms will mean failure? I wouldn't. I would rather be turned down and leave things in a good state than struggle and fail to deliver.

Don't Give Original Media

This isn't really along the estimation line, but I wanted to point this out...and it applies to alot of things: don't give originals of media (music, pictures, etc.) without making backups! Or better yet, make backups and give THOSE out.

Ah well...I did get some pics so I'm not too torn up...I also know that the videographer got sick at one point, so I'm sure we're not getting all the details of what really went down. But with the facts presented, there are some great lessons learned.

D




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