How long does it take you?

Subject: How long does it take you?
From: scot <scot -at- HCI -dot- COM -dot- AU>
Date: Wed, 10 Jan 1996 10:04:38 +1100

>How do you estimate how long it will take to complete a project? What
>criteria do you use? What are your benchmarks? I'd appreciate any
>responses, either personally or to the group if this hasn't been
>covered recently.

We did an historical analysis of all our old projects. Turns out that the
average is pretty much 3 pages per day, which is a 'commonly accepted'
figure. Individual project managers make 'gut feeling' variations on this
figure depending on the material in question (eg reference material is often
easier to write, say 5 pgs/day, whereas conceptual material, particularly
for things conceptually complex, may slow to 1 pg/day or so. We also add a
day or two for each and every diagram (not pictures or screen dumps) included.

AS/NZS4528 outlines two methods of estimating;

The 'minutes and hours' method

Top-down approach

The 'minutes and hours' method is basically the method we use, although the
standard says 'It takes approximately 3 hours per page to write text to
publication standard' (ie including editing). There's also a whole table
there which has items like;

Determine deliverables 16 hrs per project
Research content 24 hrs per project
Write documentation plan 48 hrs per project
Design structure 8 hrs per project
Write first draft 1 h per page

etc, and includes things like 'Incorporate user comments', 'Make final
corrections', and 'Distribute'. There are 20 steps in all.

The Top-Down Approach starts with these assumptions;

(a) A writer can produce 22 pages of new material per month
(b) A writer can produce 44 pages of changed material each month

And goes from there. I think this is an IBM-sourced method.

In my experience the 3 hours per page estimation is fairly accurate, with
teh provisos I give above.

AS/NZS4258:1994 'Software user documetnation process' is published jointly
by the Standards Australia and Standards New Zealand. Standards Australia
can be reached at

1 The Cresent
Homebush NSW 2140

I think it costs AUD$15. (sorry, its not on the net -- that's how the
Standards body makes enough money to fund all the standards work -- yeah and
this *includes* ISO standards, which BTW, 4258 will eventually become).

If anyone wants to know more about the standard then email my boss, Phil
Cohen, on pcohen -at- hci -dot- com -dot- au - he was the chair of the committee that wrote
the standard.

ciao, scot
HCI Consulting, GPO Box 4846 Sydney NSW 2001 Australia.
#include std.disclaimer

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