Are Inaccurate Estimates Killing Your Business?

This is something that happened yesterday and today that I want to share with you.

We were working on creating estimates for a fair sized project, perhaps a 3 or 4 month engagement. While we were getting estimates, we had different developers giving us times for the same aspects of the project to check against one another. We ask production team members, developers, designers, project mangement, and content teammates to write out the project in as much detail as posslibe. In addition, we use Brainleaf to scope every single aspect of the project, and then request that the production team go into the system and assign hours as granularly as possible.

Testing New Developers

But when we get a new developer, we don’t always tell them exactly the process. We tell them, “Take a look at the scope, put in your hours.”

What we ended up this time was about normal for most developers. The new developer didn’t really want a take at the whole thing scope of work. They breezed over it then they just came back and they said “It’s gonna be about a month to do that.”

A More Experienced Developer (That We Trained)

The more experienced developers, whom we had trained on our process, reviewed the document very thoroughly, and calculated down to the 15-minute increment on every single feature. One of our more experienced developers initially said, “This will probably be about a month” before really looking it over.

“I think is gonna be more than that. I think it’s gonna be a bigger project than you’re expecting” I replied.

In typical developer fashion he responded, “I’ll take a look. You may be right.”

He reviewed the document very thoroughly and put all his hours in piece by piece. At the end of his review process, I was right. He came back and said, “You were right. On my part of this, no less than two and a half months. The hours line up about three months. I think it’s going to be less but the hours line up about three months.”

“Perfect, that’s exactly what I expected.” I responded.

Here’s the moral.

Very often, developers, designers, production people, are gonna take a look at something and give it a broad stroke. With a quick overview it looks simple. But with a deep dive and a calculation of every item down to the 15-minute increment, all of a sudden it gets a lot bigger really fast.

Take a look at the SaaS Costing Guide!

So, as an agency owner or project manager, you must make production team members delve into your information architecture and ask about every single feature, then estimate them down to the fifteen-minute increment. When production team members do this they almost ALWAYS find that the project is going to take a lot longer than they initially expected.

That means you need to write a full project scope for your website or application!

If you don’t write break down your project granularly how will your team calculate hours on a piece-by-piece basis?

If you do write it out, it will give you the most accurate estimates you can get on your website or application project.

The Contrary

Otherwise, you’re going to end up estimating your project duration at a month, and it’s going to take three (sound familiar?).

Then you’re gonna be months behind on your timeline, thousands behind on budget, and have a really upset client.

So avoid a lot of pain and a doomed project from the start by taking the time to plan out your project thoroughly from the beginning and get granular estimates. This way, everyone is happy, especially you.

For a thorough explanation on how to scope a website, software, SaaS, or web-application project take a look at either this article, or take a look at the BrainLeaf book on scoping website projects.