Announcing Aptage PERF (for Engineering): Project Estimation Risk Feasibility

Projects are hard to estimate, assess risks, and determine if feasible. This article describes how this is all easier with the Aptage PERF (for Engineering) tool. Aptage combines the sciences of a) wisdom of teams and b) mathematics of uncertainty. We put the “science” in SWAG. See Aptage PERF (for Agile) for the same article on agile projects.

Step 1) You have a big idea…

The team has an idea, not just a great idea, but a fantastic one! This idea has a really good chance to move the needle, delight your customers, and really put you ahead of the competition.

There is a conference nine months from now, and it would be awesome to have this ready to show off and start taking pre-orders.

Step 2) SWAG an Estimate

OK, let’s take an hour or two and collectively estimate what big buckets of work and deliverables we’ll need to get this done.

There are some really good ways to estimate with ranges, relative estimates, and risk flags. Leverage the wisdom of the team and whatever past experience you have to get this close. With estimation perfect really is the enemy of the good – go fast and don’t try to get it perfect.

Here’s the psychology that matters here. People are really good about estimating the boundary of a single thing, but we are terrible at intuiting for combined risks. In this example, the teams estimate of 25-30 engineering days range for Feature B is probably about right, and the “*risky” assessment for Integration A is also likely right. Where we aren’t good is combining all of these risks together – more in Thinking Fast and Slow for Project Management.

Step 3) Putting the “Science” in SWAG

Excellent work! Now let’s take this wisdom from the team and package it up for analysis.

Here’s the spreadsheet that gets the job done:

Step 4) Can we get it done by the deadline?

Now, we can use Aptage to answer this important question! We have about 9 months before the conference… Are we confident this work can finish in 8 months?


84% Risk! Yikes, that’s a lot of red!

Step 5) That’s too risky, what can we do to increase our odds of success?

There is a chance everything might go really well, but we’d rather have 60 or 80% confidence before deciding to start this project. We need to improve the odds.

The options are classic: schedule, resource, or scope management. What’s new with Aptage is that we can measure the actual probability/ odds when evaluating these options!

Step 6a) Schedule management – can we push the date?

If we could push the date out two more months then we could increase our chance of making the deadline to up to 76%! (See the Aptage chart above, the section of the right that shows likelihood of completing by Month 10).

But, of course, in this case the deadline can’t move, the conference is already locked in and we aren’t able to change that. On to other options.

Step 6b) Resource management – can we leverage more hands?

Let’s consider adding more people. We all heed the caution of Brooks’s Law, but in this case it seems like a good option. This is the very start of the project, and we were optimistic putting together a tiger team of only 2 people. Let’s try it!

If we add one more person, and re-run the Aptage analysis, we get an increased likelihood of 93%, up from only 16%.

That certainly improves our odds! What does it cost us to make this move? The person we are considering adding to this project would have been working on something else, and the opportunity cost of that work is at stake.

Step 6c) Scope management – Can we cut some features?

Let’s try to take out some scope by removing “Component 2” and also removing “Integration B”.

This works to really increase our confidence of on-time delivery.

Step 7) Approved: Less Scope and we have High Confidence.

We concluded that the less scope option will still be able to gather the attention of the conferencea and not take another team member away from other projects we are running at the same time. We have a plan!

As a backup option we’ve decided to monitor the project risk continuously and if risk starts to go up we can consider bringing that third developer into the team, but only if we have to and also if there is a natural starting of new work they could help with effectively. See the Aptage Risk Burndown for more insight into continuously measuring project risk.

Want to try this out yourself?

Here’s the spreadsheet we used: click to download spreadsheet.

Contact us and we can set you up with a trial account so you can do this yourself.

Click that Schedule Demo button on the right!

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