Today, we’re going to address a common misconception that you’ll run into when dealing with your clients. This misconception is that work time and duration are the same things, or that there is a close correlation between the two.

Let’s begin by looking at each definition:

Work Time In Project Management:

Work Time Is: the amount of time, usually in hours, it takes to complete a project. For instance, a project may take 100 hours of work time, but that does not mean that after twelve-and-a-half eight-hour days, the project is finished, because…

Duration in Project Management:

Duration Is: the overall timeframe it takes to complete a project. This is different from work time because, in the middle of the project, communication needs to occur, people take time off, people don’t work the weekends (most of the time), etc. So that 100-hour project would be given at least a duration estimate of one month.

The Importance of Communication in Project Management

We want to make sure that we have plenty of time for conversations and time planned for internal company exchanges at clients’ businesses. We need to be able to send data out and get data back from the client and account for this time in our projections. Without time budgeted for this, you won’t be able to manage the project well, and things will start to fall apart!

Think back to your high school or college group projects. The majority of time you spent on those – especially the ones that were well-run – was on research and coordination. The actual work of putting the poster or slideshow together was a small fraction of the total time it took.

These projects work the same way. So it’s important that we give the client reasonable expectations with phrases such as “It’s going to be one month for this many hours of work.”

Realistic Timelines

For anybody out there who’s thinking that the developers should be working their eight hours…

It never goes that way. It just doesn’t.

If you’re a developer, a designer, or just a creative, in general, you don’t typically work eight hours a day on something. Your brain can’t work that much without burning out on a creative project.

So, you have to take into consideration that creatives are going to work four to six hours a day of good, solid work and have some days where they work a lot more or a lot less. If you push them to work eight hours every day, that’s probably not going to work out well for them or for you. You’re going to either:

  1. Get half-assed work OR
  2. They’re just not going to make their timelines because they are going to be going so slow on the project.

You can’t change the process, and you can’t rush it. Its like a flower blooming, it just takes the time it takes.

This is why it’s crucial to understand the difference between work time and duration.

Set Proper Expectations Managing Projects

The reason that I felt this was an important issue to address is because we had somebody recently ask how much time it would take to complete a project, and the developer responded with an answer of 17 days.

I took a look at the project, and it was clearly a project that was doable in 17 days — with:

  • hree people working full-time
  • No interruptions
  • No stopping
  • Nothing going wrong
  • No surprises
  • Receiving instantaneous feedback (in both directions)

That was never going to happen. It’s impossible.

I spoke with the Project Manager and informed him, “This is going to be a month-and-a-half to two-month project.” I asked her to pass that timeframe on to the client.

If the expectation for the project duration is set at two months, and then we finish in a month-and-a-half –that’s fantastic! And if we finish in one month, even better!

But if it takes us two months, and we told them 17 days, then we look terrible and everyone is upset. No one wants that, especially us!

So don’t get confused!

Don’t get confused between work time and the actual duration of the project. More importantly, don’t allow your clients to be confused by it. If you don’t set the proper expectations, then you’ll find yourself losing clients and bleeding reputation and money quickly.