Category Archives: Q

Q is for… Quantification

We all have to do it at some point or other and it’s never easy. There is no magic formula, there is no way to find a truly accurate answer. All you can ever do is guess and suffer the consequences.

But there are a few things you can do to make that guess a little bit closer to the mark and there are only a few things you need to find out.

  • What is the latest time the customer will allow you deliver?
  • What is the minimum amount you can get away with?
  • How much budget does the customer have?

Try and work these things out and build your estimate around them. Sure, build some sort of model to justify your numbers, maybe use something scientific looking like standard deviation and use fancy terminology like ‘risk budget’ and ‘contingency’ with percentages and things.

Ok, so you still want to try? Right then, on your own head be it, but here is some additional help in case you are still feeling misguided.

What does your gut feel tell you? Come on, your experience must tell you something? Is it 10 man days, 100, 1000? How long would it take you to do it, back when you were king/queen of code? Think of a number, you’ll probably be more right than you think.

Remember that when you are estimating for a project, you are unlikely to be able to pick-up and drop individuals as you go along the cycle of the project. Once you have them onboard, you will either have to keep them to the end, or risk losing them forever to another project, so best budget that way too.

Then to confirm this, use another method of quantification to check your figures. Maybe the obvious but often forgotten ‘bums on seats’ estimate. Count the number of people you have available to do the work, multiply that by your gut feel duration and that gives you a guide to your total number of man days.

If your two methods give numbers that are hugely different, maybe you need to think about it a bit more. However, if they are in the same ballpark, then you may just have a number you can use. In that case, you just need to tart your working up into something you can present to the people you have to get the money from, put on your best smile and go for it!

Q is for… Question Everything

It should go without saying, but I’ll say it anyway; question everything.

Whether it’s quotes from suppliers, statistics from your techies, reasons (or excuses) for issues from others involved in your project, you should check for the facts. The more confident you can be in the information you have to hand, the more in control of your project you are. And the more in control of your project you are, the fewer are the number of surprises that are likely to spring out of the woodwork to bite you in the ass.

Now, since you are reading the A-Z, you’re of course a pragmatist; you will know that things will still come out of nowhere to keep you busy, but no point in having avoidable hassle now, is there?

The converse is true too; don’t just question the bad news, verify the good news too. If your team are telling you, “Everything’s fine, we’re on target”, make sure you’re happy they are. After all, if it turns out they’ve been a bit over optimistic, it’ll be you that has to take the bad news to the customer.

So, take nothing at face value, listen to what people have to say, read what they send you, soak up the vibe. At least ask yourself if it makes sense to you and, if it doesn’t ring true, take it up with the source.

Also, if you’re not getting the level of information you want or need, go and ask for it, don’t wait for it to come to you – who’s running this project after all?

There’s a fine line between keeping on top of everything and paranoia. You want to be treading that line like a true pro. That way your troops will respect you rather than think you’re trying to do their jobs.

If you make assumptions and don’t question them, good or bad, you’re leaving yourself open to all sorts of potential future anguish. Best not.

Q is for… Quiet

You would think that there won’t be many instances where silence can be your friend. But you’d be surprised. Sometimes you will feel the need to contribute “I’m in charge here, I should be saying something.” Most of the time you should fight this urge.

Admit it to yourself. There is an awful lot you don’t know about and are wholly unqualified to even speculate on, never mind actually contribute. On these occasions, don’t burble nonsense because of some misguided need to take part. You’ll just look like an arse. So shut it and listen. This isn’t about you and your ego, its about getting the problem solved.

You could always try and be useful and supportive. Try phrases like “You guys have this one covered, let me know if there is anything you need me to escalate.”

Just don’t say things like “Have you tried turning it off and on?” Its not helpful and your team will have a lower opinion of you based on an increasingly correct notion that you are an overpaid waste of oxygen.