Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Politics of Estimating

Computerworld, September 12, page 10.

MicroburstIT Disasters
According to a study of 1,471 big IT projects, 15% turn out to be money pits, with cost overruns averaging 200%.

How is this a politically-charged statement?  We hear this kind of thing all the time.

As developers (or project leaders) we're failing to execute.



An "overrun" is isomorphic to "badly justified" or "badly budgeted" or "oversold to executive sponsors".

An "overrun" can be a failure to use (or even permit) realistic estimates.  It may reflect an executive sponsor restating objectives to make the project large enough to justify it.  An overrun can mean anything.

Calling it an overrun is a way to label it as "failure to execute".

I prefer to call it a failure of vision (or whatever it is executive sponsors do).  It's more likely to be an under-estimate than it is to be an over-run.

After all, how many times have we been told to reduce an estimate?  How many times have folks gotten their "attaboys" and "attagirls" for "sharpening their pencils" and reducing the proposal to the smallest amount that the customer would approve?