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Using MS Project as an Estimating Tool

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  • #5067 Reply
    CommunityCommunity
    Keymaster

    I have wanted to use MSP as our “in house estimating tool” for a number of years.  I have personally used it as such in the past and believe it works well yet I have been unable to find others either already using it this way or even thinking about it.

    It seems so obvious to me… a good project plan makes for a good estimate.

    Is anyone else already doing this or wanting to do it ?

    I’d like to collaborate with anyone who is willing.

    #6669 Reply
    CommunityCommunity
    Keymaster

    I’ve never used MSP only for estimating. Interesting idea.

    #6673 Reply
    CommunityCommunity
    Keymaster

    Jarvis, are you talking about using it only for estimating?  Or, if we assume that schedules are to be considered as predictions of time, effort and cost (at least until actuals are entered based upon what already occurred), then you are already using it as an estimating tool.  If, however, you are referring to at least a semi-automated way of incorporating the basis of the estimates data, we would need to consider the following:

    • Do you have historical data that is appropriate for re-use?  For example, incorporating repeatable processes as work packages within your project;
    • Are you referring to software development or engineering-design-development estimates?  If so, do you already have a preferred estimating methodology, such as a parametric or an analogy model?
    • Have a look at an application called BOEMax, which is a separate app that exports its data into MS Project, maybe that would fit your requirement.  I haven’t used it, but I have heard that there is heavy use of the package in fed contracting, and it appears to allow for some pretty detailed recording of bases of estimates at the work package level and is independant of estimating methodology.  I think the company who created the application is called Projstream.
    #6674 Reply
    CommunityCommunity
    Keymaster

    We use MS project for tracking the precision of our estimates but we use Excel to do the actual calculations. In Excel, we store the attributes and their value based on an adjusted value factor, then the tally of all attributes is converted into effort. This effort is added to MS project schedules in a column that we then compare with the actual work when the task is completed. to track, we plug into Project server’s SQL database and pull out a pivot table that gives us the difference per WBS (another category asigned to each task).

    I think the main purpose of MS Project is to track what you plan. Planning alone serves no purpose.

    Do you agree?

    #10587 Reply
    CommunityCommunity
    Keymaster

    Yes, I have done that in the past. It takes more time than using Excel the first time, but it is work the investment once you define your estimation phases and resources in a template. Just remember to move the number outside of Project before presenting them, as people tend to see Project reports and outputs at definitive plans and not just estimates.

    #10588 Reply
    CommunityCommunity
    Keymaster

    Hi Bryant,

    Not to be used only for estimating. The “estiamte” would flow downstream through project request/review/approval into work orders.  The thought of using Project Portfolio in the submttal/review/approval then into WO has been also brainstormed.

    We have an estimating catalog that we have built over the years that indeed one of the things to figure out is how to best make it avaiable to an .mpp file as a person builds the estimate in the .mpp file.

    Our estimating efforts currently are focused on the estimation of engineer/procure/construct of capital projects at a very early stage, pre design, mostly for budgeting purposes  One of our biggest challenges is to get the estimate requester to actually define/scope their project well enough to be estimated, but that is not the topic here.  We are looking at moving more to the use of BOE’s and typicals for the budgeting aspects and more our efforts more t othe constructability estiamtes after design is done.

    #10589 Reply
    CommunityCommunity
    Keymaster

    Hi Paul.

    I suspect the common thought is that MSP “is to track what you plan”.  After all, it is a project management software. 

    I would agree that one purpose of MSP is to track what you plan, but I also believe MSP can be used to actually build your estimate.  I’ve actually done this in the past.

    I’m a surprised how resistive estimators are to consider using it and also how unreceptive the project management community is to the idea also.

    I will be pushing the concept further within our organization but I must admit purchasing a canned package estimating tool off the shelf has an attraction to it when compared to the challenge I seem to be facing in changing people’s paradigms.  

    #10590 Reply
    CommunityCommunity
    Keymaster

    Thanks for your reply.  Now I know I am not the Lone Ranger on this (which is what has felt like at times).

    I appreciate your “caution” regarding how when people see it in the MSP format they may jump to conclusions regarding that it is more than an “estimate”.  Indeed I can see how that might happen.   I’ll keep that tucked away in mind as I go.

    Do you use MSP exclusively as your estimating tool or has your use in this manner been as occasional here and there thing to meet your personal needs more than to provide the company with estimates ?

    #10591 Reply
    CommunityCommunity
    Keymaster

    Hi Jarvis,

    I have used project as an estimating tool at several employers.  It is a good tool to do what if while working the proposal or remaining budgets. Moving hours between resource (junior level versus senior level) and having a clear picture of where that leaves you based on budget objectives.

    However, I have hit a snag at some employers as they have set ways in which they do things.  And most of these include the process of extracting hours from project at the WBS level and porting it over into excel and alinging with resource classifications.  Some of this is based on customer required responses….etc. And my favorite “We have always done it this way” response.

    Hopefully you can make headway with demos and explaining that you can have resource classifications list in the resource pool to handle the upfront/proposal costing.  It is always a struggle with entering rates into a file that can be viewed by the customer or other employees.  Are we going to use actual burdened rates or are we going to use “bid classification” rates…Senior Software Engineer.

    Good luck!

    #10592 Reply
    CommunityCommunity
    Keymaster

    I’ve had success using MSProject to identify tasks, durations and costs and have used that information to create estimates without too much issue. Yes Excel is easier but using Project allows me to estimate costs and identify tasks, milestones and estimated completion. all important concerns when proposing a new project. Where I’ve had issues with Project is taking those estimates and tracking real costs. Project will calc earned value based on completion but I keep getting stuck taking the estimated / baseline cost and then adding orders, payments, etc., something easily done in Project. I’d be very interested in working with others to find a solution.

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