How to Estimate a Deadline for a Business Project

 Imagine: The Development of the World

The world was created in seven days (168 hours), and another thousand years (many hours) for testing and adjustments. 

Developer: Here’s the thing, it was just that the technical task (TT) was unclear, and I had to make a few changes. Yes, according to the plan it was two weeks. Well, they didn’t take several things into account, or they were mistaken, so we had to make some adjustments. We had a difficulty rating of much lower than it actually was (10/10). But it’s not a problem, we can clean it up now, and somewhere in a thousand years it will be ready! 

This story is not uncommon. No, this is not about creating the world as a whole, but about the ability to correctly assess the timing it will take to create it. The same word that exists in almost all modern industries – estimate. If it isn’t already obvious from the word itself – estimating is about calculating the time and man-hours it will take to complete a project.

 

How to estimate deadlines correctly

According to McKinsey’s research, 66% of projects ultimately require more resources, and 17% are completely different once the project is complete. As a result, the amounts of time required for revisions are two to three times higher than those initially stated. The blame could be placed on the teams working on the project, but in reality, the actual estimate of the deadline is to blame.

The cause for such discrepancies are often caused by vague descriptions of technical tasks (TT) and may include reasons like the abstractness of the final product, or unpredictability of volume. Taking into consideration that each project is something unique, it is not necessarily surprising that mistakes are made in the evaluation process.

 

What questions should you ask for an accurate deadline estimate?

Prior to starting the estimate, it is imperative for the developers’ team to gather information through conversations with the customer. It is in this conversation that insights are gleaned about each project. While, to the customer, it may seem that the task is quite obvious, and can easily be carried out without fail, it is at this point that the most inconspicuous mistake lurks, primarily due to a lack of information.

Now stop and think: 

What questions would I ask before making an estimate? Have you thought about it? Write your questions down on a piece of paper so we can compare.

Below are some of the questions that should be asked in order to make an accurate estimate:

  • What are the business goals of your project? An obvious question with which to start, but for some reason, everyone immediately rushes to learn about the product, its benefits, and other, little-needed information. In reality, it depends on the business goal for which the product or service is created. The final product will depend on whether it is to triple your company’s income, increase conversion, etc. As an example, if you are an environmental company with a goal to expand your client base, you could talk about ecology for 3 hours, but in the end, the goal will still be to expand the company’s client base, which is where the focus should remain.
  • What is the purpose of the project?  These points look similar, but if we are talking about a company-wide problem, the specific numbers are important here. To ensure success, the customer will need to share specific details. For example: Our goal is to onboard 100 new clients each month.
  • Is there a “killer feature”? Does your product have a killer feature that makes it unique from others like it. Highlighting this feature is essential, then, and needs to be included in the estimate.
  • What is the value of the project? What about the benefits?  When offering a product or service, value is a multidimensional factor where all the conditions need to be met. While the value is important, it is critical to stress the benefits to your audience. The developer will be able to include these factors in the estimate and narrow the focus for development.
  • How will you get started? Here is where you can get stuck for a long time. It can be tricky to make the decision to ask for support from a development team or order a business analysis service, etc. It is worth considering all the options. Perhaps in this particular situation, it would be more beneficial to cut the scope and invest in the best outside option for launching.
  • Is there an end-to-end solution?  That is, is there a plan to go through the entire product from start to finish? A full-cycle contractor can help with this.
  • Are there technical clarifications from checklists for the sale of specific services? Providing these checklists and technical clarifications will streamline development and help clarify the details involved.
  • How and how often will your company deliver the product or service?  Thanks to regular demonstrations, it is much easier to take into account all the needs that arise along the way and immediately adjust for your tasks.

Now you can start the discovery phase, according to the results of which you should have wireframes and at least a high-level specification or prototypes. Now there is everything for an estimate! 

Only with all the information, can you count on an adequate assessment of your outsourcing partner or developer. It is worth mentioning that most likely, at least 90% at one point or another have not conducted a full assessment. 

As an example, if your contractor is especially self-confident and brags that “yes, I will do everything here in a week and it will be fine,” then you should doubt because a specialist or developer can forget to take into account some features which will ultimately result in additional unplanned money and time. It is this reaction that can help you determine how experienced the person is sitting opposite you.  

For the most part, “pessimists” are already experienced workers. They have more experience with these cases, so they know bottlenecks and take into account more scenarios and pitfalls that will appear during implementation. It is these experienced professionals who have compiled a set of tools (templates) for drawing up a project assessment.

In the next article, we want to tell you what estimates of projects you can get, depending on the accuracy of detail.