Takeaways from Curve Fitting for Project Estimation

The recent blog post, "A MOET and POET Curve-Fitting Approach to Project Management & Meeting Time Estimation" details my investigation into historical data to see what sorts of projects tended to have increased project management and meeting time. Our guess was that project timeline relative to project scope could heavily influence the overhead in terms of meetings and PM required. I was able to verify the hypothesis with our own project data and came up with two new theories that need some outside validation before I'd consider them laws by any stretch of the imagination, MOET and POET.

Meeting Overhead Efficiency Theory (MOET) - Projects with both a low and a high scope to timeline ratio will incur the greatest overhead in meeting time as a percentage of total project hours. Every organization will have a "sweet spot" in terms meeting percentage efficiency that occurs with mid-sized projects over a reasonable timeline without unnecessary delays or rushing to completion.

Project Overhead Efficiency Theory (POET) - Projects with a low scope to timeline ratio will incur the greatest overhead in project management time as a percentage of total project hours. Increasing efficiency can be gained in project management by shortening the timeline of a project or increasing the project scope, all else equal.

Overall Takeaways

Projects that are rushed are generally going to have higher overhead when it comes to meetings. Not surprisingly, when adding more developers to a project to get it out the door on time, meetings are going to be required to keep everyone on the same page. In our project data we saw minor efficiency gains in project management with projects that had a short timeline relative to the scope, but the gains there were heavily outweighed by the additional meeting time. On the other end of the spectrum, projects that are delayed or drawn are often the worst offenders when it comes to project management and meeting overhead. In our case, this is often because we do weekly status calls with our clients, and our project managers are going to keep checking in on the project on a regular basis to review progress and keep things moving forward. As the timeline is drawn out and the number of development hours per week decreases, the meetings and PM time isn't going to decrease at the same rate.

Takeaways for Project Managers and Estimators

  • If you estimate projects, it's worth taking the time to review your own data and find a curve that fits in order to increase the efficiency of your estimates compared to a flat-line estimate.
  • It's to both your benefit and the customer's benefit to keep projects on schedule. Increasing scope late in the game or dragging heels on getting to go-live will increase project management and meeting overhead. If a customer is delaying a project, it's in everyone's best interest to make sure that the budget implications are known.
  • When putting together project proposals, if the timeline allows for it, create the project schedule to match your "sweet spot" when it comes to project management and meeting time optimization.

Once you've analyzed your data and created equations, it's really easy to build a simple percentage calculator to use with proposals that looks something like this:

Takeaways for Customers

  • We know you value your budget, so let us make the most of it! Help us stay on-track and efficient by responding to requests for information and assets in a timely manner to keep your end of the project moving along quickly. The project end date is often when a website launches, and that can be any number of weeks or months after development has been completed; the longer that period is drawn out, the less efficient the project will be.
  • The most common reason for post-development delays is content entry. Make sure you have your content ready to go as far in advance as possible so that as soon as you have the green light, you can begin adding site content to be ready for the go-live date.
  • If you anticipate the project scope is going to change drastically, give us as much warning as possible! We'll make our best effort to do the same for you. Big changes late in a project are always going to result in some inefficiency during the process of racing to meet deadlines.
  • If you have a small project, make sure you work with us to clearly define the timeline for completion. We don't want a project that requires 40 hours of development to be drawn out over months any more than you do!

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