Estimated Time to Complete: The Ultimate Concept for Project Success
If you think that project management has nothing in common with math, you’re making a mistake. Both of these knowledge areas have to deal with estimation in one way or another.
While in mathematics, estimates help to simplify complex calculations and arrive at correct answers with greater ease, in project management, they take a slightly different part.
This article will tell you all about the purposes and role of estimation in project management. We’ll explore the concept of estimated time to complete in proper depth and figure out why it’s important for project success.
Estimated Time to Complete: What Does It Mean?
Estimated time to complete (ETC) is the number of hours required to complete a task or project. It is calculated during the process of time estimation, and it plays a critical role in project planning and scheduling. 📅
Where to Use Estimated Time to Complete?
● Resource planning
As per the Triple Constraint Theory (aka the Project Management Triangle), there are three essential factors affecting every project: time, cost and scope. These factors are closely interrelated — a change in one of them inevitably affects the others.
If you decide to expand the scope of a project by adding a few more deliverables or tasks to the plan, the overall cost and the amount of time required to complete that project will naturally increase. And in case you experience a significant schedule delay, you most probably will have to invest more money in the project and do some extra work to handle that delay well.
The key here is to find the right balance between the three project constraints to keep your work on track. And when trying to do so, you can’t get away without accurate time estimates — they will prompt you on how to organize project resources and properly set your performance goals in the dimension of time. 🕒
Time estimates also indicate which deadlines must be established for different project tasks, activities and phases. And in case your estimates are not correct, setting realistic project deadlines becomes truly challenging (if not impossible). 😵
Time estimation is an intrinsic part of the project scheduling process. That’s why it’s crucial to know how to estimate your task duration the right way, and we’re going to focus on this point in detail below.
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How Do You Calculate Estimated Time to Complete?
1. Start with a plan
The time estimation process starts with the development of a detailed work plan — prior to scheduling your project, you must understand which performance goals must be attained and how you’re going to attain them.
This is obvious, isn’t it? Yet how to create a proper work plan is another question. 🤔
For better results, we recommend you design a work breakdown structure (WBS) — a diagram with major project elements arranged in hierarchical order:
- Firstly, identify your project deliverables and place them at the top of the WBS. These can be a finished piece of a marketing copy, a finalized website design, or a fully developed software feature — in other words, any significant performance achievement or output that plays an important role in attaining the set project goals. 🎯
- Secondly, figure out which major operations and team functions can help you fulfill your deliverables: graphic design, content writing, web development, etc. These operations will occupy the second level of the WBS hierarchy. 🥈
- Thirdly, break down the major operational elements into smaller functions, features, or subsystems, such as an article about your new product, an app interface design, etc. 🧩
- Lastly, find out which groups of related tasks (aka work packages) you need to complete in order to bring the above subsystems, features, and minor functions to life. For example, if you intend to create a piece of content about an app you’re developing, your work package will include such tasks as information research, writing, editing, SEO optimization, etc. 📦
2. Select the right time estimation technique
Nowadays, project managers have plenty of time estimation techniques to choose from. However, you should be aware that some of them are more appropriate at the start of the project planning process, while others are perfect to apply when your project plan is already mature. 👨🦳
For example, bottom-up estimation requires you to estimate every single piece of work you intend to complete and then sum up these bottom-level estimates to get the grand total for your entire project.
By making you focus on details, this technique produces exceptionally accurate estimates. Yet it’s impossible to implement correctly when your project plan is still underdeveloped.
In contrast, such a technique as analogous estimation is less demanding in terms of precision:
- First, it requires you to identify similar tasks in an already completed project and the one you’re still planning.
- Then, you need to analyze how much time you spent on the already completed tasks and use this data as evidence when estimating the newly planned ones.
Analogous estimation produces accurate results merely when applied to two identical projects (which are normally hard to find in reality). However, even if your projects share merely a few tasks in common, using historical data during time estimation can be very beneficial.
Time tracking is of tremendous help in this regard. By keeping a detailed record of all the time invested in work, you are bound to get very accurate performance data. And the more precise this data is, the more accurate time estimates you’re going to obtain in the end. ✅
That’s why it’s pivotal to adopt an intelligent software solution like actiTIME — it lets you track every minute of your working time automatically or via intuitive manual-entry timesheets. Besides, it includes several informative reports that simplify the estimation process a great deal — check out this post to find out more about them and learn how to improve analogous estimation thanks to actiTIME.
What Makes Estimated Time to Complete Important
In sum, time estimates are the key elements of every well-developed project plan, and there are a few reasons why you should always take them seriously. Accurate time estimates do the following things:
- Protect against cost overruns by helping you set realistic deadlines for tasks. 💰
- Foster a more organized work process by using time estimates as waymarks. 🧭
- Reduce risks to business reputation by preventing serious schedule delays and keeping your clients and partners satisfied. 🧡
As you can see, it’s vital to dedicate enough effort and attention to project estimation before the actual work begins. So, start the process with thorough planning, then pick the right time estimation techniques, and use high-quality tools to collect valuable performance data and improve the quality of your time estimation decisions.
Wanna know how to achieve even more accurate time estimation results? Don’t hesitate to check out this post and find all the answers there!