Project Estimation and Tracking That Works

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Aug. 08, 2005 03:56 PM

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Project management, in Andy's system, is the process of answering the question "Will we make it?" Obviously one goal is to make the customer happy -- but not at the expense of an accurate schedule. If your project is off track and you won't be able to deliver what you want to deliver when you want to deliver it, why not find out as early as possible and figure out how and what to change to make it work?

That's the real trick... but if you're smart and well-disciplined, you can minimize disruption.

If there's a secret (and this is what the agile development community has been saying for a while -- neither Andy nor I make a secret of that) it's that you have to be relentlessly honest about what you can and cannot handle. You don't have to have perfect knowledge, but you have to stop deluding yourself and your customer that changes are free, that you've made more progress than you have, and that your initial estimates and guesses are completely right and will never change.

If you keep your tasks small and make good estimates and keep track of your tasks and revise your estimates and review your schedule based on what you know, you'll always know where you are and how far you have to go.

If you let the unknown take over your schedule, if you let unfinished work slip over and rework creep in, and if you can't point to a single simple project board somewhere and say exactly how much you have finished and how much left to do, you can't answer the fundamental question of project management.

Maybe you'll succeed anyway... but if you have that honesty and confidence, both Andy and I believe that your project stands a far greater chance of success.

chromatic manages Onyx Neon Press, an independent publisher.