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How to Improve Your Project Estimates

Updated: Jun 24

Telescope, binoculars, eyes

How to Estimate Software Projects

Your estimates are awful and your projects/products never launch on time. It's because you're using promises rather than demos. Early *real* demos beat promises and written updates 100% of the time. This guide discusses how to improve your project estimates so your projects can launch on time.

The games people play:

I was sitting with a group of product managers who were complaining about the terrible estimates from engineering and how they're never accurate. They had games to get promises out of the engineers (but it still doesn't do the trick).

The funnier thing is, I also sat with engineers and they complain about the product managers playing games with them and how they have their own estimation games they play back (since they literally have no clue at the start of a project if that deadline next year will actually make it).

What actually works:

As you get closer to a project and as the project gets "chunked" out into smaller pieces, the estimates get better. As you see real results your estimates get incredibly good.

What I do:

Here's how I get proper estimates after running projects for 16 years: it all has to do with your "line of sight". It depends where you're at in the project and how small of a thing you're trying to estimate.

I like to think about looking at the end result far away from me. Do I need a telescope, binoculars, or just my eyes. It's really hard to fake an end-to-end demo since it's in front of your eyes. It's super easy to fake that weekly written update for a project that's 6 months away.

Does it really work? Yes.

When I worked at an agency with customers and the deadlines were SUPER critical, we would do 2 demos a week with the customer throughout the whole project. Not surprisingly, we built the right thing, on-time with no surprises.

Take a look at my guide & mini-quiz to see how you can get better estimates depending on where you're at in the project lifecycle, how big the items you're trying to estimate, and how critical your on-time delivery is.

Project Estimates Guide
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