I know another exciting topic, but there are a lot of very valid reasons for doing estimates. Like ensuring profitability through exercising just a little control.
How much does it cost to do the most mundane projects in your agency? I’m guessing you don’t know. Oh, it just takes too much time to do an estimate; it’s part of the client budget; it’s just a quick revision. Sorry, I just don’t buy it. But you always estimate big projects – right?
What percentage of your overall employee hours are spent on mundane projects? Maintenance consumes a lot of hours. You need to know where all those hours go. Every day.
I’m a proponent of the estimating process – which includes
breaking a project down to tasks and allocating time to each because it:
– sets expectations
– ensures you remember all the steps that should be included
– gives you numbers to measure against
– data to track actuals against estimates in real time (requires diligent timesheets – do not whine)
– provides historical data that gives you a quick way to answer “how much time does X take / cost?”
– and solid data for reviewing the year, client or project type
Once you get in the habit, it’s actually easy and fast. Templates make it quick and there are plenty of software tools out there to tie-in everything – from estimates, to task allocation, time sheets and all that wonderful follow-up data you can actually see – in real time.
And just a little side-note: remind your colleagues to pay attention to the budgeted hours. Think about it. Budgeting hours is like setting a deadline. If your colleagues are going to be late on a project they should alert you. Likewise, if they need more hours they should let you know.
Those alerts are the first indicators that your estimate is working. You could have under-estimated, there could have been unexpected problems, or an individual just wants to spend more time. Address those issues sooner rather than later and quickly revise your estimate, if needed.
When you have those discussions up-front, you can determine a solution and make sure the cost is covered.
Who likes surprises at billing time?