The Value of Project Experience

Despite its importance in estimating, very few organizations have a database of project experience. Instead, experience on a project is in the heads of project team members and is not easy for the manager of the next project to access. Indeed, very few organizations keep reliable figures on the actual hours taken in project development. As automated process management tools become more widely used, it becomes less expensive and easier to use past project history.

A process management tool should help in answering the following questions:

■ Which past projects are similar to the current one?

■ What was the effort on similar projects overall and by task?

■ How do the skills of the people on similar projects compare with those of the current project staff?

Finding Similar Projects A similar project may be one that has the same tasks that were done by the same people, used the same programming language, or met other criteria. A project history database must enable the search for similar projects. This implies that all projects must be performed using a standard set of tasks, just as accounting costs must be analyzed using a standard chart of accounts. If each project manager makes up the names of the tasks on each project, how can projects be compared with one another? As discussed in the next section, a methodology should provide the enterprise with its chart of accounts.

Determining Past Effort and Skills Once the similar projects are chosen, the manager of the new project needs to know the effort on similar projects, overall and by task, and the skills of those who worked on these projects. The manager can find this information if the time and cost spent has been recorded in a standard way and if data is reasonably complete. To quote productivity expert Capers Jones, "The historical data for projects used internally by corporations is close to worthless for economic studies. Direct user costs are essentially never tracked, unpaid overtime is seldom tracked, and carelessness in charging time to the correct set of project accounts is rampant in the MIS domain."[2]

Automated process management tools must make the recording of actual effort against standard categories inexpensive and easy for everyone putting in time on a project; then project history can become a meaningful aid to estimating.

Project Management Made Easy

Project Management Made Easy

What you need to know about… Project Management Made Easy! Project management consists of more than just a large building project and can encompass small projects as well. No matter what the size of your project, you need to have some sort of project management. How you manage your project has everything to do with its outcome.

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