Re: Advice sought re. project estimation

Subject: Re: Advice sought re. project estimation
From: Peter Neilson <neilson -at- windstream -dot- net>
To: Pippa Cohen <cohenpippa -at- googlemail -dot- com>
Date: Mon, 23 Jun 2008 10:17:17 -0400

The first two approaches are useless unless no one is expected to read
the documentation. You may consider them an approach to a paycheck. Hold
your nose, select an estimated time (according to principles that have
been discussed here before) and submit it. Hold your nose again when you
do the work. Three to six weeks might be reasonable, but you could do a
crummy job that would remove half the crud in two weeks.

The third approach is the only one appropriate for actual use. If the
client expects the user guide to be part of the product and expects it
to help generate the reputation to be gained by presenting a
high-quality item to genuine customers, then careful work, real
technical writing, is what is required. The estimate does not descend
from the 180 pp that exist, but rather from the needs of the project and
its users. Think of the existing work only as notes. Perhaps more than
one document is required. Write a documentation plan for each document
that's needed; the estimate will appear in the course of planning. I
would laugh at anything less than four to six months.

You will likely encounter someone who says, "No planning is needed. We
have the plan, and everyone knows what it is." Part of your job (or your
boss's job) is to figure out how to deal with that situation. Good luck.

Pippa Cohen wrote:
> Hello All
> As a relatively new freelancer, I am conscious that I tend to be optimistic
> when it comes to estimating tech writing projects; it's a difficult balance
> between being fair to myself, and not scaring customers away! So far, the
> customer is winning!
> I've been asked to estimate a new project and I am determined to submit a
> realistic figure this time, so I would appreciate input from those more
> experienced than myself.
> The customer has a user guide which is 180 pages. It looks to me as if the
> guide has been auto generated (and translated) from some other source,
> probably an online help system. I have been asked to estimate three
> different levels of work:
> (1) An overhaul of the look and feel. The general layout is a mess -
> cluttered, unstructured pages with random use of different fonts, there are
> no conventions for presenting field names, options, etc, headings are
> difficult to identify... the list goes on. So, one of the first things it
> needs is a new template and a complete face lift.
> (2) An editorial review. Content is littered with basic errors and
> translation issues.
> (3) A full review. This is the 'big one'. I would go through the guide with
> the software, making sure it is editorially and technically correct. At the
> moment, there is a distinct lack of any explanatory information in the
> existing guide - it is very much a set of functional instructions for each
> option in the software, with no information about why users might want to
> use a feature, what the implications of an action are, etc.
> I realise that there are a whole host of factors to consider when estimating
> a project (particularly with regard to the third option), but I was hoping
> that some of you might be able to offer some ball park suggestions, at least
> with options 1 and 2.

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Advice sought re. project estimation: From: Pippa Cohen

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