Tag Archives: project management

Estimating #techcomm projects: More science to go with the art

Pig lizard creature from Galaxy Quest film

The pig lizard from Galaxy Quest: With any luck my cost estimate will fare better than he did.

My friend Ralph has been in the technical communication business even longer than I have. When I asked him for some pointers on estimating project budgets, he said without hesitation, “You know, it’s more art than science.”

For me, that phrase conjures the friendly alien in Galaxy Quest who said “the operation of the conveyor [transporter] is much more art than science.” That was just before the pig-lizard creature beamed aboard, inside-out, and then exploded all over the conveyor room. Have you ever underestimated a project so badly that it ended up like the pig-lizard? I have.

Although I know Ralph is right, I still wish we had more science to go with the art. I wish we had a few benchmark criteria that we could use for estimating. What that in mind, I’ve listed a few factors that, based on my experience, influence the cost of a project. I’d like your help to add items to this list.


The most reliable factor, by far, is actual cost data from previous, comparable projects. The trick is in the word comparable: is the new project similar enough to an old one to justify using the old one as a starting point?

There’s also the matter of having accurate data from the old project. We any costs hidden from the project’s final balance sheet — for example, translation costs that were borne by the engineering or marketing department?

For me, it’s increasingly unlikely that I’ll find a comparable project to use as a starting point. More and more, each project seems to be a project unto itself. So I’m left having to consider other factors….
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Leadership keys to a great season (Opening Day special)

Oriole Park at Camden Yards

I wish I was here today: Oriole Park at Camden Yards (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

It’s baseball’s Opening Day: Fanfare, flags flapping, and plenty of excitement. It’s just like the start of a new project, when optimism abounds and the future still looks just like you drew it up in the plan.

Here are some Opening Day tips for project leaders. Continue reading

Keeping things dangerous

We project managers tend to think in absolutes. There are two ways to do something: the right way, and all the other wrong ways. So, for example, software has to be released according to a carefully crafted schedule. The schedule has to include time for rigorous QA testing. And so forth. That’s the right way, and all the other ways are wrong.

Or are they? Continue reading