Dear Elizabeth:

I work on a project team for a manufacturing company. For the last year, we’ve been using ranged estimates to build out our schedules. For the most part, our customers love it. We have one customer who is putting up a fight, saying they want a hard deadline. How do we convince them to go with a two-point estimate? –Living in Reality

Dear Reality:

Ranged estimates are awesome, so I’m totally with you on that one. I’m not surprised that most of your customers love the way you schedule.

I would start a campaign of education: Talk to your customers about why two-point estimates are actually a more mature and realistic way of scheduling and why that should give them more confidence. Talk about transparency and managing risk. Talk about why your other customers like it and the benefits that they have seen because they’ve used dynamic planning. Using case studies and real examples are also a winner when it comes to convincing others.

In this conversation go back to the beginning, and talk about why your customer chose you: because your company has a mature and professional approach to doing the work, supported by cutting-edge tools and methodologies including ranged estimates, which puts you ahead of competitors (and by association, gives them a boost too).

In the event you fail to convince your customer to go with ranged estimates, here’s something to consider. Could you use ranged estimates for your internal planning and then only publish the later of the two points to your client? They’ll get the worst case scenario but it meets their requirement of a single date and gives you the flexibility to use ranged estimates as you intend.

And if you come in earlier, you’ll have fair notice to let them know. They might even be pleased about it!

Every month, project management expert, Elizabeth Harrin, fields readers’ questions about the challenges, risks, and rewards of project work on the LiquidPlanner blog. This selection is used with permission.

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