More on Estimating Hours

Subject: More on Estimating Hours
From: David Orr <dorr -at- ORRNET -dot- COM>
Date: Fri, 12 Mar 1999 16:14:34 -0600

Technical writers can control what we can control. One of these is to
know how much time it takes us to do things like:

* Research and design
* Preliminary reading
* Kick-off meetings
* System overview with SME
* Interviews with SMEs
* User interviews/task analysis, if allowed
* Designing prototype pages
* Creating or modifying template
* Designing content outline
* Writing design document
* Presenting design
* Writing and editing
* First draft
* Review process
* Second draft
* Review process
* Final draft
* Review process
* Production/Printing, if required

We have found it useful to add the actual totals for these items
together and divide the hours by the number of pages in the final
document. Totals like these for one project only can be misleading
because of variables like:

* % of system changes that affect drafts
* availability/lack of availability and cooperation of SME's
* review delays by client
* bureaucratic instrusions
* politics
* changes in client perceptions of what's needed
* technical problems
* life (Murphy's law)

However, after keeping these numbers for a year or more, the variables
begin to average out, so that the writer begins to get a realistic
"feel," based on numbers, for how long things take under specific
conditions. These conditions can be used as a basis for querying the
client prior to a project and for estimating. In estimating, the
conditions and assumptions the writer is making in the estimates should
be stated clearly in writing, along with a statement that if the
conditions and assumptions change, the estimate will vary in proportion
to the changes.

This approach gives a rational basis for adjusting project budgets and
schedules as conditions and assumptions change.


M. David Orr
Orr & Associates/Usability Management
http://www.orrnet.com

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