Quest for Better Estimates


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Quality and Estimates. Rarely do you see those two words together in the same sentence—especially in connection with Information Technology projects. Now that’s changed. QUEST (QUality + ESTimates) for Better Estimates is an Excel-based software product that helps you improve the quality of your estimates. And because the QUEST process helps you improve communication within and outside your team, it helps improve your actual job performance as well.

What is QUEST?

QUEST is a Microsoft Excel-based (Office 2000 and newer) software application. It consists of friendly-user displays, macros to improve power, helpful notes in cells, and how-to documentation. This page provides more information about the components of QUEST:

  • The 20 (most important) Questions
  • The Assumptions Worksheet
  • SWAG (2-point) Estimating
  • Scope Measurement Methods:
    • Application Point Estimating
    • Function Point Estimating
    • Product-Points Based Estimating
    • Learning Objectives-Based Estimating
    • Program-Level Estimating
  • Definitive Estimating of the WBS: Phases/Work Packages/Activities
  • Summary of Estimates
  • The Estimating Guide, an explanation of all the methods.

QUEST provides a series of templates that support consensus estimating, Barry Boehm’s COCOMO II estimating factors, Function Point or Application Point estimating, and statistical estimating methods.

QUEST provides active documentation of the factors that affect estimates the most. A special benefit of the QUEST approach is the way it supports re-entrant estimating, because it provides the trail of assumptions that were the basis of the original estimates. The result: Better communication, better estimates, and better projects.


The Quest Components

The Estimating Guide
The Estimating Guide is our proven estimating methodology. QUEST includes a paper-based or electronic version of The Estimating Guide. The Estimating Guide provides a description of the use of QUEST estimating templates. It also describes the statistical background of estimating, different intellectual models for estimating, and an explanation of the issues, timing and best methods for better software cost estimating.

The 20 Questions
Too many people estimate their projects before they know enough about the factors that will affect the estimates. By answering The 20 Questions you discover the factors that will have the greatest impact on your project. Work with your customers and manager to answer the questions, and you improve project communication and manage expectations from the very beginning.

The Assumptions Worksheet
The secret to meaningful estimating is to identify and track your assumptions. Although QUEST’s greatest contribution is the way it helps you identify assumptions, there are always more to consider. This worksheet allows you to record all the other assumptions that will affect the project.

SWAG Estimating
Can you remember how you arrived at your initial estimate? the SWAG Template provides the trail. It helps early high/low estimating, helping you sensitize the project to Barry Boehm’s newly updated COCOMO II cost driver factors. Later, SWAG helps you document, optimistic, most-likely and pessimistic estimates. SWAG is especially useful for group consensus estimating (the modified Delphi method).

Function Points
Do you use function point estimating? the FunPoint Template supports you! FunPoint’s methods follow the International Function Point User Group’s standards for function point counting, and documents your counting process. FunPoint uses your hours per delivered function point history to convert the adjusted function point count to an effort estimate. A special feature of FunPoint is the ability to adjust the final estimate by the COCOMO II factors, just as in the SWAG and Phases Templates. You have no estimating history? See Make Estimating History, below.

Application Points
Don’t use function point estimating? the Application Point Template provides an alternative way to estimate non-development project scope and cost (installing a networks, for example) based on measurable scope or products produced. Given good repeatable process and history from similar projects, use the Product Point Template to list and quantify the results of each phase, and to derive a project estimate from that information. The Application Point Template provides a great way to measure changes in scope, as well.

Learning Objectives-Based Estimating
Is a class or workshop a part of your project? Or perhaps developing one is the project! We’ve used this Template for years in estimating and bidding workshop development, for instructor-led, for Web-Based Training, Distance Learning, and Blended Learning. Based on the same principles as our Product Point template, but specialized for simple, average and complex Learning Objectives (based on Bloom’s Taxonomy II, 2000), this template has been our trade secret, and now it is available to you! Of course, just as with other Scope measures, you must have good learning objectives to use this Template. But our Instructional Designers can help you there, too.

Definitive Estimating of the WBS
Once you have a good Top-Down estimate, how do you corroborate it, with a Bottom-Up, or Definitive estimate of the detailed activities for each Phase? The Activities Template provides the answer. After building a good Work Breakdown Structure, then identifying the activities that complete each Work Package, estimate each activity’s effort and roll up to a project total.

Top-Down, then Bottom-Up, helps you validate and improve all your estimates; and, this template is perfect for importing into your favorite Project Management software package.


Make Estimating History!

Good estimating relies on good history. As a special service, we can supply instant history. With our Make History process, our consultants work with your Project Managers to review completed projects, and count Application or Product points. Then we evaluate your project tracking information to establish relative effort history. The result: New Metrics, Tuned templates, and better estimates for your next projects!


Four Ways to Achieve Your QUEST

Type of License, Price, and What you get
1. Single-user License; $95; QUEST Excel-based application and a paper copy of The Estimating Guide. Click here to license Quest now.

2. QUEST SixPack License; $295. Perfect for your Project Management Office, with an electronic and a paper copy of The Estimating Guide, and permission to reproduce them at your site. Click here to license Quest now.

3. QUEST Site License; $695; includes your QUEST For Better Estimates Site License, an electronic and paper copy of The Estimating Guide, and permission to reproduce them at one site.

4. Learn Project Estimating! For added impact, license Quest For Better Estimates and bring onsite our 2-day learning experience, Software Cost Estimating for up to 16 people. Or, send your Project Management Office to Colorado to learn Software Cost Estimating in our Rocky Mountain High custom coaching service! Contact Us for pricing options.

Start today on your QUEST For Better Estimates!

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