How do we predict how long it will take to <fill in the blank>? When it comes to initiatives or activities that have been done before, experience plays a pivotal role in determining outcome. On the other hand, luck may play just as much of a role in the end.
I’ve managed dozens and dozens of projects over the years. Based on my years of experience, I should be able to more or less accurately predict a project’s timeline. I also know that every project is different and, while I’m pretty good at identifying risk factors at the start of the project, there will always be something that comes up that no one thought of before. A bit like Murphy’s Law, but we’ll call it Whipple’s Hypothesis for now.
In a recent article in Fast Company, Jessica Greene-Zapier discusses why we often fall short when it comes to estimating the time needed to complete a project. Greene-Zapier cites a concept attributed to Daniel Kahneman (2011, Thinking Fast and Slow) and Amos Tversky that states: “Our tendency to underestimate the amount of time it will take to complete a task” is known as a planning fallacy. Optimism and positivity spur us into unrealistic expectations of what can or can’t be done in a defined time.
To understand project estimation, a project manager creates a potion that is part historical data, part best case/worst case estimation and part “throw this in for good measure.” Historical data from software implementations and data migrations provided me with a general idea of how long our migration to Drupal might take. Add to that a best case/worst case/most likely scenario and I predict the migration will take anywhere from six months to three years with a most likely estimate of 12 to 18 months. If I wanted to “calculate a fudge ratio,” I would add a 15 percent time overrun so the estimate would be 13 to 20 months to be on the safe side.
So, from migration of our very first page to development of our very last page of our three-thousand-plus pages on the website, I’m confidently predicting that within the next 6 months we’ll start the migration of content and at the outside be finished with migration and development of all pages by Oct. 31, 2020.
As our project evolves, so too will the planning. Dates for training, cutover from old CMS to new CMS, what will and won’t be migrated, and how decisions made during the project will affect the campus at large, will all be addressed. For those requiring more definitive timelines, please stay tuned to this blog for regular updates.