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The way projects work in Corporate America.

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    The way projects work in Corporate America.

    After a great deal of nagging, my boss finally assigned me a project out of the ordinary, so I can flex my muscles a little and do something different from the usual. I was given a day to review the specs and then make my estimates on the schedule.

    I reviewed the written documents, asked my questions for clarification, talked to a few engineers who had done the project before about the complexities involved and then keeping in mind my usual work load made some intelligent guesses as to how long it will take me to wrap things up!

    This morning I got the project approval documents and guess what?!!!

    My immediate manager had made significant changes in the schedule, either due to his lack of confidence in me or just to save his butt. The project manager (PM) on top of him "padded" the dates a little bit "to be on the safe side". The marketing & planning people doubled the PM's estimates in the charge sheet for the project to bill the customer appropriately!

    So, in the end the thing that I thought I could do in three weeks ended up be nearly a 6 month project with the customer being charged close to 10 weeks of "Engineer Time"

    What's your work environment like?

    [This message has been edited by ahmadjee (edited July 15, 2002).]
    I know that you believe that you understood what you think I said, but I am not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.
    - Robert McCloskey

    #2
    Isn't there any competition? I mean other companies bidding to do the same work in a shorter period of time...

    "A woman has got to be able to say, and not feel guilty, 'Who am I, and what do I want out of life?' She mustn't feel selfish and neurotic if she wants goals of her own, outside of husband and children"

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      #3
      Its simple. Its called SAP - Save your Ass Program. If u do it under budget, everyone is happy and u get a flattering evaluation, and if you go over budget, all hell breaks loose.

      Based on my experience on projects, the technical people (engineers etc) are always very optimistic people. If we started taking their estimates and put it in proposals, the companies'd go bankrupt. I don't know your particular company, or your group or your own expertise and experience in forecasting time, but when I get a technical projection on the time it will take to finish it off, I'd be very skeptical. Even doubling it, sometimes, will still make it go over-budget. And once its delayed, the lame excuse from engineers is usually "that xyz thing took too long. Its not our fault".

      Then again, may you did a fine job, and maybe your company management, being monopolistic in that market can charge whatever they want and decided to make some nice little dough while the customer can support this project.
      "Let your friends underestimate your virtues. Let your enemies overestimate your faults." - Godfather.

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        #4
        Oh sorry.. you asked about our experience. At proposal stage, we make estimates. In my case, I estimate the time it will take, based on man-hours, charge it at our standard rates and adjust the final number based on competitive market conditions (many times we discount for the first year).

        Before the start of assignment, I approve the time budget, which is line-by-line detailed. The actual time spent is entered every day. All "extra" works need my approval BEFORE its done, and I discuss it with the client. At the end of the assignment, I review the comparision of budget to actual, and put together a variance analysis. All "extra" work is additional billing.

        Next year, the actual times, are the basis for fee negotiations.

        Its usually quite straight forward.
        "Let your friends underestimate your virtues. Let your enemies overestimate your faults." - Godfather.

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          #5
          aishA, Yes there is competition; HP/Epson/Lexmark etc. But they charge way more to do even half the work we do.

          Anyway, the particular project had to do with a current customer who wanted a little more than what previously agreed upon. So basically the marketing people are grinding 'em out of their money cos they know they are stuck. :~)

          Faisal bhai: I agree, techs are generally over optimistic. That's mainly due to the lack of following the principals of Software Engineer!
          I know that you believe that you understood what you think I said, but I am not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.
          - Robert McCloskey

          Comment


            #6
            In my experience... optimistic tech forecasts are generally attributable to their lack of understanding of the business implications/requirements of the project.

            A particular piece of software may take x amount of time to develope; however, add to that testing, training, implimentation, change management; not to mention the work done before developmentcould even begin(Scope developement, Requirement gathering, etc), and the result can very easily become:

            2x+ 2.

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              #7
              Does it only happen in tech. sector? What about other engineers or planners?
              I know that you believe that you understood what you think I said, but I am not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.
              - Robert McCloskey

              Comment


                #8
                In the environmental modeling field you definately padded the project times not only because the client was very apt to go from do A to saying I thought we were doing A to E. For one project that started in 1980 is just nearing completion now after 20 years because the technology has meant improved modeling every so often and a huge increase in scope.

                In Civil engineering, look at the Boston Big Dig which went from $1B to an overrun of $10B and over 11 years beyond the project time.

                In almost every engineering field be it software or practical, there are factors used to make sure that uncertainties are accounted for in the projects. In software it is actually easy cause you can give a buggy software package and then start patching it up. Can not do that in a water supply or highway project cause that is likely to lead directly to fatalities.

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